This introductory chapter begins with a review of key themes in the history of alcohol. It then sets out the book's purpose, which is to survey how alcohol was first situated in the various cultures within which it was consumed, and describe how alcohol related to structures and processes of power and to issues of gender, class, race/ethnicity, and generation. The focus of the book is Europe, but the book also provides an extensive treatment of North America. The justification is that, even though alcoholic beverages might have originated elsewhere, and were certainly consumed throughout most of the world, Europeans integrated alcohol more extensively, and in greater volumes, into their cultures than people of any other region.
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