I have come very late to the Mark Forsyth Fan Club, but I am already a fully-paid up member.

Mr. Forsyth showed us just how formidably clever and witty he is in The Etymologican – my first review of 2020, incidentally.

“The Etymologican” is all about words and is an absolute joy.

“A Short History of Drunkenness” is about – well, drunknenness. And is also an absolute joy.

Mr. Forsyth leads us through history, charting what people drank, and when, and why, and it is all huge fun.

The author tells us about the binge-drinking ancient Egyptians, the heavy-drinking ancient Greeks, the heavy-drinking Vikings, the heavy-drinking Romans, the heavy-drinking Aztecs.

You get the point.

History is full of heavy-drinkers. Mead, wine, beer, gin – the more, the merrier. Pun absolutely intended.

At one point, laughing out loud as I read the book, I thought – now why wasn’t history at school ever this much fun?

Just imagine if bored school-children were told not so much about treaties and taxation agreements, but about the epic quantities of boozing in medieval England, perhaps history would be much more fun.

In a jolly romp through pre-history, the Middle Ages, the 18th century, China, colonial Australia, the Wild West and 19th century Russia, Mr. Forsyth wears his considerable scholarship lightly.

This is an absolutely smashing book.

Thoroughly recommended.

I accompanied my reading of it with a glass of wine.


Well, more than 2 actually, since I read this entertaining history over the course of 2 evenings.

Here’s a link to buy the book on Amazon – you don’t need me to explain what you have to do.

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