Points Interview: David Fahey and the History of ADHS

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Dr. David Fahey, a long-time member—and an unofficial resident historian—of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. Dr. Fahey is Professor Emeritus at Miami University and the author of several books about the history of alcohol and temperance.

David Fahey

Dr. Fahey, nice to get in touch with you! Members of the ADHS often get notices about new publications and conferences from you via the Daily Register. So how long have you been involved in the organization?

Historians often neglect the history of their own organizations. I will happily provide a few details.

The Alcohol and Temperance History Group (ATHG) was first created at an American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in December 1979. A US Government-funded conference about alcohol history was then held at Berkeley, California, in January 1984—which occasioned the restructuring of the ATHG; its first officers (Jack Blocker as first president); and first membership dues. I joined a few years later and took part in the formal organization after the big Berkeley conference. Early conferences of the ATHG were usually held in Canada where funding for conferences was more available than in the USA (Berkeley in 1984 was unique).

Things used to be very informal. There were very few of us. At various times I was President of the organization and Editor of the journal. At some point, I took the main responsibility for the Daily Register but with no title. In fact, several people got the right to post and very occasionally did. 

I agree that we should be paying attention to our own history! What should members know about the early days of the ADHS? Can you share any gems from the organization’s history? 

You can read the early versions of SHAD. Also see Alcohol in History: A Multidisciplinary Newsletter, Spring 1980. It provides a brief history.

Well, the Alcohol and Temperance History Group affiliated with the AHA in 1986 and sponsored papers at the AHA annual meetings. The ATHG limped on with a mimeographed newsletter and occasional conferences. In 1993, the ATHG was reorganized as the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, with Ian Tyrrell as president. The enlarged scope reflected trends in scholarship. The society’s publication became known as the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs.

Do you have any advice for the next generation of scholars studying alcohol and other intoxicants?

In Britain, a parallel organization was created in 2010, first as the Warwick Drinking Studies Network and then simply as the Drinking Studies Network (DSN). Much of its work was online, although the DSN sponsored conferences and sometimes later published the proceedings. Despite overlapping membership, the ADHS and the DSN are not formally affiliated.

It might be good also to improve and clarify the relationship between the British-based Drinking Studies Network and the mostly North American ADHS. 

Last question, can you recommend any hot new books?

Just wrote a blurb for Mark Lawrence Schrad, Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition (Oxford UP, July 2021). Important book.

May I be allowed to mention a new book by yours truly? David M. Fahey, Temperance Societies in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2020).

2 thoughts on “Points Interview: David Fahey and the History of ADHS

  1. Great interview with David. A little more info on ADHS history. The ATHG was renamed after a conference at Huron College (now Huron University) in London, Ontario in 2004. At that conference, president Ian Tyrrell (in a talk he gave in absentia, I recall) recommended the title change to recognize the broader mandate of what we were doing. This also shifted the name of the Social History of Alcohol Review (SHAR) to the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs: An Interdisciplinary Journal (and where I was pressed into service by Jon Millar, one of the editors–or maybe the sole editor). The “A” was kept as the first initial in the name for several reasons, one of which, encouraged by Scott Haine, was to keep the society’s name near the top of the American Historical Association’s list of affiliated societies.

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