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Response to Review of A History of Drinking: The Scottish Pub Since 1700

As one would expect, Callum Brown has written a well informed and perceptive review of my book, highlighting the importance of alcohol consumption and the rituals surrounding it in Scotland and in western societies in general, together with the ‘huge part’ it has played in national identity. I take issue, however, with his statement that he ‘craved more detail on many topics, more leeway to pursue the drinking institutions in whichever direction they are to be found’. My book is a broad survey of an extremely rich topic over three centuries of Scottish history. I deliberately chose the broad time sweep to highlight elements of continuity and change in the public house and its variants over the years. It is simply not possible, however, given word limits by publishers on a book of this kind, to include all topics and every detail, and I had to leave a good deal of material out of the book. Brown mentions the pubs at Bridgeton Cross, guarded by the police on days when Celtic were playing at Parkhead. This was described by one of the Glasgow licensees I interviewed but left out for lack of space. Many of the topics that Brown would like more detail on are mentioned in the book, although perhaps more briefly than he might have preferred. For example, drink based initiation rites are discussed on p. 113, the etiquette of ‘buying a round’ on pp. 212–13, the hierarchy of rooms in many public houses on pp. 60 and 212–14, and the extension of licensing hours in the 1970s on pp. 203–5.

I agree with Brown that ‘much remains to be done’ on topics such as temperance but hope that my book will encourage others to research this extremely important field in more detail. Given the richness of the subject, its overall importance for the history of Scotland and the depth and variety of sources that exist, it is amazing that no one has written a full length history before.