Craze by Jessica Warner


Rotgut gin—cheap, widely available, and remarkably potent—was the overwhelming drug of choice among London’s working poor in the early 1700s. Sold for pennies in taverns and squalid gin shops, on street corners and even in jails, gin was the original opiate of the masses, plunging England’s capital into chaos and giving rise to the first modern drug scare. Craze is an engaging social history of gin and the men and women whose lives it tou...

Details Craze

Release DateOct 14th, 2003
PublisherRandom House Trade Paperbacks
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Food and Drink, Food, Literature, 18th Century, European Literature, British Literature

Reviews Craze

  • Chris
    You’d think a book about the havoc gin wreaked on London between 1720 and 1750 would be totally awesome; Ms. Warner goes out of her way to prove me wrong. I’ll try to briefly tackle the things that bother me in her work: 1) Directly from the author’s afterward; “An historian is not unlike a pirate’s parrot…both perch on the shoulder of someone whose intellect dwarfs their own, both squawk phrases picked up somewhere else, and neither ...
  • Susan Ferguson
    An interesting look at the effort to stop sales of gin in London in the 1700s. There were several different gin acts, but only one managed to reduce the sales - when they reduced the license to sell gin so anyone could afford it, gin lost some of its popularity as a government protest. Then, there came hard financial times where crop failures and draught caused the crops to be used for other than distilling and besides nobody could afford gin. Th...
  • Kathleen (itpdx)
    This book got better as it went along. But I wanted to point out to the author that this is a popular history book. I found the quotes of formal, 18th-century prose not worth the time to try to decipher. In a popular history, it is OK to paraphrase! And then I found she used terms that I am not familiar with, like "fisc". Is this Canadian or British? I can find no definition that seems to fit the context. I found the experiments in law enforcemen...
  • Ginger Webb
    This is deeply disappointing and, quite frankly, complete tosh. A potentially fascinating topic has been made as dull as ditchwater by someone who claims to be a historian but who is actually just a polemicist who possesses no writing discipline and flits about from topic to topic with no real plan. As others have said in other reviews, the book reads like some kind of student dissertation, and why the editors didn't throw it back and ask for a c...
  • Brian
    Entertaining look at life in 18th century London and the politics of trade and regulation. Ends with t desultory, but interesting comparison to the crack era in the United States.
  • E.p.
    Really interesting topic, super poor execution. Again, this is a really poorly written book. It sounds like a graduate thesis that Warner decided to capitalize on and publish as a book for the masses. The details in this book are tedious and extraneous, to a point that the valid points that Warner tries to make are very hard to follow. All of the sources make this sound like a history research project that was used for a graduate level course whe...
  • Steven
    An interesting little book which, in discussing the gin craze in London between the 1720s and 1750s and the legislative attempts to control it, points out the parallels to today's attitudes toward drug crazes. Warner gives much detail about the legislative maneuvering by the upper crust of British society to try and control the masses and their addictions -- more out of a concern for maintaining the social order than out of concern for their fell...
  • Brett
    This is an interesting look at what the author feels is the first modern drug "epidemic", & the most thought-provoking part of the whole work may well be the epilogue, in which she compares the overall effects of the gin craze on British society, who used it & why, & what the average person as well as the government & ruling classes thought & felt about it to the American crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980's. The similarities she draws are rather...
  • Pamela W
    So far I'm thinking I should stick with drinking gin -vs- reading about it. This book reads like the text from my 10th grade American history class, which was right after lunch and therefore almost impossible to stay awake for, given that I was digesting my francheesie or whatever I ate from the cafe. After all, in American History, you never really made it beyond the 1920's-30's so every year was a regurgitation of the patriots, slavery and abol...
  • Carrie Capizzano
    Really a fun book, and a good window on the culture that doesn't make it into the history books. Two criticisms: it's a bit polemical, with an obvious divide between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" (I think I agree with her assessment on this, but any cartoonization of history will tend to make me skeptical of the author's position), and it sort of dies at the critical three-quarter mark. Right when we need to be hearing something new, there's...
  • James
    I found this dry and repetitive. I'm sure that it would be a fine Ph.D. dissertation, but as a colorful slice of history it falls flat. I'm sure that the lurid subtitle, Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason, along with the racy cover picture hyped up the sales, but this is a boring read. History does not have to be clothed in such rags as this. "Craze" became only, I believe, the third book in my life that I did not finish. I gave it a big chan...
  • ***Dave Hill
    A fine review off one of the earliest "War on Drugs" -- the push to suppress the spread of gin drinking (and selling and distilling) in Britain in the 1730s-1740s. Much of the rhetoric is familiar to today's drug wars, and many of the lessons (mostly of failure) are the same: demand will drive supply, and blaming drugs on the problems amongst the underclass is a cheap and easy way to avoid having to actually address those problems.
  • Jennifer
    Very little about the associated social history. Lots of extraneous details about various laws and government figures and fighting among opposing (self) interest groups. The reformers were more abut control and raising the mores of the "lower classes". Lots of money, power plays, and hypocrisy of course. Political and legal scholars would enjoy. Not so much the general public.
  • Converse
    How upper class Londoners between 1730-50 got alarmed about the drinking habits of their inferiors, and how they endeavored to curb such drinking without disturbing the politically powerful distillers. Generally informative and amusing, but I think it understates the harm caused by gin &, in the final chapter, about more recent recreational drugs
  • Mark Russell
    A fairly interesting dissection of the gin craze of 18th century London. Apparently, a population of drinkers who'd known only beer didn't realize that you weren't supposed to drink gin in pints. What ensued was the crack epidemic of its day.
  • Lynne Pennington
    Almost a book-length term paper! Lots of research and lots of detail on an interesting subject. I especially liked the quotes from Fielding, Defoe, and others----makes you realize when it comes to politics, there really is nothing new.
  • Ivanna
    Overview of the various Gin acts of the early 18th century in Britain and the attempt of one class to control the behavior of another. Well written, doesn't quite live up the the cleverness of its opening chapter but interesting ideas and correlation to the crack epidemic.
  • Kristy
    An interesting history of how the upper-classes react when the working poor start drinking gin in addition to their beer. Sometimes a little repetitive, but a quick and worthwhile look into a very early drug war.
  • Brian Burton
    This book somehow makes the subject kind of dull, and reads in parts like it was the author's grad school thesis. The last chapter, which compares the elite view of the "gin craze" with the elite view of the "crack epidemic" of the 1980s, could have been interesting but it reads like a polemic.
  • Adrienne
    I enjoyed this book, it was very informative & I would recommend it. Keep a highlighter or pencil for underlining though as I would not want to read it twice over. Fitting for a book about Gin to be dry.
  • Katelyn
    I had to read this for a English history assignment. The book was very informative, but the author repeats the same sentences over and over again. She also could have stopped writing with 100 pages to go and still made her argument.
  • Robin
    interesting but a little slow.
  • Meredith
    Started out lively, then got dragged down by long lists of people and dates and 18th-century quotes. I actually skipped the last couple of chapters. Would have been better as a long magazine article.
  • Lori
    I lied- I didn't read the whole thing because it bored me too much. I tried, but it was like reading a really long term paper. zzzzzzzzzzzz.
  • Kit Kincade
    Not a bad social history, could do without the last chapter.
  • Gloss
    This is funny, and thought-provoking, and damn good, well-written history.
  • Mark Spivak
    An unusual feminist view of the Gin Craze in 18th century London