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The Meaning of Public Drinking in Colonial NSW

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Camden Library

40 John Street

Camden, NSW 2570

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Popular Culture as Political Performance: The Meaning of Public Drinking in Colonial New South Wales

Drinking alcohol is a political activity. Though we drink for many reasons – refreshment, relaxation, sociability, intoxication – drinking in public is also a performance weighted with meaning, and it was especially meaningful in colonial New South Wales. During a period when systems of government, the authority of the social elite, and the rights and liberties of citizens, were challenged and debated throughout the British world, this meaning was often overtly political. Drinking, or refusing to drink, was a cultural signifier that demonstrated respectability and status; the ritual of toasting celebrated loyalty and allegiance, and ordered the social hierarchy; alcohol marked the boundary between work and leisure; while drunkenness symbolised deviance and disorder. This talk will explore a series of microhistories, drinking moments that reveal broader changes in the political imaginary of New South Wales during the transition from an authoritarian penal colony to a democracy of responsible white men.

Hosted by Camden Library.

Proudly presented as part of the History Council of NSW’s Speaker Connect program for History Week 2017, supported by Create NSW.


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Camden Library

40 John Street

Camden, NSW 2570

Australia

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