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The Irish question and the question of drunkenness: Catholic loyalty in nineteenth-century Liverpool

David Beckingham


This article examines how stereotypes of Irish drunkenness were linked to the formation of Irish Catholic identity in Liverpool. It shows how judicial statistics produced a moral geography of drunkenness that encouraged the scrutinising of Irish cultural practices precisely because drunkenness was conceived as a public problem. The issue of drunkenness was connected to broader questions of loyalty and citizenship. This article pays particular attention to the response of church leaders, for whom curbing Irish drunkenness was seen as a way to remake the Irish in Liverpool. Against that moral geography of Irish drunkenness, I argue that the emergence of a Catholic Total Abstinence League offers a unique way to explore the politics of drink and the tensions around questions of loyalty and community formation.

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