Explore the data by source type.

port books
Port Books
Port books are records of England’s overseas and coastal trade as recorded in the provincial ports of England and Scotland. Their survival and content can be erratic: rather than definitive records of trade, they should be used as indices of more general patterns. The database can be used to find the identity of traders, boats and mariners as well as the provenance, types, and volume of commodities. Commodities recorded include intoxicants (mostly alcohol, tobacco, and caffeines) and natural ingredients such as malt, barley and hops. They also include accessories like tobacco pipes and drinking utensils plus the raw materials to make them (such as pewter and tobacco pipe clay). The database draws on the port books of Chester and Liverpool in the North-West and Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn (plus the small port of Blakeney) in Norfolk. It is based on samples of at least one year per decade in each region between the 1580s and the 1720s, although there are gaps in the 1640s and 1650s, and consists of 143 books, over 14000 consignments, and nearly 20000 commodities.
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depositions & examinations
Depositions & Examinations
Witness and examination statements (depositions) taken in cases in the church and secular courts of early modern England offer remarkable insights into the everyday lives of ordinary men and women – not least where, how, why, and with whom they consumed intoxicants, and the language and norms that characterized consumption. The database contains full transcriptions of depositions relating to intoxication in the North West and Norfolk taken from a) the church courts based in Norwich and Chester and b) quarter sessions records for Norfolk, Cheshire and south Lancashire. The church courts records are continuous between 1580 and 1740 (aside from the 1640s and 1650s, when the courts did not sit): the data is based on sampling of at least two years per decade for both regions. The quarter session data for the North West is taken from Lancashire quarter sessions files between 1606 and 1725 and from Chester quarter sessions between 1571 and 1689 (with one outlying case in 1716). For Norfolk there are examinations from the early seventeenth-century quarter sessions rolls and from bundles of examinations from Norwich quarter sessions between 1689 and 1740.
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Alehouse licensing, introduced by statute in 1552, was the main instrument by which the most ubiquitous drinking place in early modern England was regulated, and represents one of the most ambitious programmes of early modern civil status registration outside of the parish registers. Inns generally escaped such licensing. The power to license was delegated to county or borough authorities: licences were usually issued for a year at a time, either at Quarter Sessions or by two JPs acting out of quarter sessions. The licences themselves, having no use after the end of the year, have very rarely survived. However, the process demanded that the alehouse-keeper took out a recognizance (i.e. bound himself over) to fulfil the obligations of the licence and provide sureties to guarantee that he would do so. Such lists of alehouse recognizances survive in very large, if patchy, numbers. The database contains details of approximately 9900 retailer names, and 18000 associated sureties.
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orders & presentments
Orders & Presentments
The database contains 530 orders and 425 presentments. These sources illuminate how the governors and local inhabitants of communities looked to regulate the production and consumption of intoxicants between 1580 and 1740. Orders ranged from the administrative to the punitive: ordering civic feasts, guild regulations, determining weights and measures (the Assize of Ale). Presentments were official complaints made by local inhabitants about ‘bad’ behaviour and reveal attitudes and conflicts within neighbourhoods. Offences include unlicensed alehouse-keeping, breaking the assize of ale, drunkenness, and gaming. For the North-West, the Chester Assembly Books and the Manchester Court Leets records were surveyed for the whole period and constables’ and jury presentments were sampled for Chester. For Norwich, the Norwich Quarter Sessions (1571-1721) and the Norwich Mayor’s Court Books (1570-1731) were sampled (1 year per decade) and for Thetford all the surviving records of its borough assembly and quarter sessions were surveyed between 1578 and 1659.
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The 135 petitions transcribed and modelled on the database represent a subset of the quarter session business which is discussed more fully under ‘Orders and Presentments’. They are drawn primarily from the sample of Norfolk Quarter Sessions Rolls and from the Lancashire Quarter Sessions Rolls. The petitions cover a variety of subjects. Some were for alehouse suppression – perhaps for disorder, perhaps because the petitioners claimed there were too many in a village. Other petitions begged that an alehouse be allowed. In a number of cases drunkenness was but one of a number of anti-social actions. Like presentments, petitions are valuable for the evidence of villagers setting out their views of unacceptable and acceptable behaviour in drinking establishments and personal behaviour. In our transcriptions we have noted the names of all signatories and whether they were able to sign or mark their name.
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probate inventories
Probate Inventories
One of four key document types generated by the process of settling the will and administering the estate of the deceased – the other three being wills, bonds, and accounts – probate inventories are detailed lists and valuations of an individual’s movable goods prepared on their deaths by friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Delegated before 1858 (like all aspects of probate) to the ecclesiastical courts, they survive in vast numbers in diocesan record offices across England – especially before the 1720s. The 618 inventories on the database are for those who identified themselves – or can be identified through record-linkage – as retailers or commercial producers of intoxicants or intoxicant-related objects. We have used online catalogues to identify some 450 inventories taken for people with named intoxicant-related occupations (including apothecaries, brewers, cooks, confectioners, distillers, grocers, innholders, pipemakers, vintners, and tobacconists) in our sample areas for the period 1580 to 1740. By cross-referencing the retailer names collected during our work on licences with the probate material, we were able to additionally identify approximately 180 elusive alehouse-keeper inventories.
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The database contains details and images of objects that can be interrogated alongside all the textual sources, helping to inform a fuller understanding of the social cultural, economic and political importance of intoxicants in early modernity. Data in textual sources was systematically analysed by generic type (i.e. cup, bowl, tankard, flagon, jug, bottle, pipe, box etc), by material (i.e. silver bowl, glass or stone bottle, copper kettle) by size or capacity (i.e. pint, quart, large, small etc) and by relationship to intoxicant (i.e. beer bowl; wine cup; tea kettle) to reveal the typically generic intoxicants related objects, materials, and sizes available and in use by the people of Cheshire and Norfolk. Our aim was to find at least one image of surviving objects, in public or private hands, that could be linked generically, materially or stylistically, as closely as possible to each of the object types listed in the evidence outlined above. The database contains examples of 219 object types.
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