To Be Led Astray?

The Effects of the 1881 Liquor Act on the Leiden Alcohol Trade


  • Ariadne Schmidt Leiden University
  • Roos Van Oosten Leiden University
  • Astrid Theerens Leiden University



Liquor Act, Leiden, Public Houses, Alcohol Trade


The Dutch Drankwet (hereinafter: Liquor Act) of 1881, the result of decades of temperance activism, was met with much criticism — little had come of the national legislation’s aim to reduce the consumption of alcohol. Even so, did this also mean that little changed in the sale of alcohol? This article examines how the Liquor Act was implemented locally in Leiden and what impact this had on the sale of alcohol there. To this end, both city council minutes and patent registers are analyzed. Patent registers served as compulsory patent taxes and as licenses for liquor stores and drinking establishments. They provide valuable insight into the variation within the sector for alcohol sales in Leiden throughout the nineteenth century. Our examination shows that, contrary to the criticism of the law, the Liquor Act had both short- and long-term effects on Leiden’s pubscape. It led to a limited decrease in the number of public houses and primarily affected the smallest public houses, often owned by women.


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Author Biographies

Ariadne Schmidt, Leiden University

Ariadne Schmidt is Professor by special appointment of History of Urban Culture, in particular of Leiden, and Associate Professor of Economic and Social History at Leiden University. She specialises in the history of women and gender, labour, labour relations, households and crime in an urban context.

Roos Van Oosten, Leiden University

Roos van Oosten is an archaeologist and historian by training and works as a university lecturer of urban archaeology at Leiden University. Since her Veni project, her research interests have included not only material culture, but also historical GIS. Together with Dr. Marion Pluskota, she previously realised the project Dangerous Cities, which inspired the project Leiden’s Pubscape, 1816–1894.

Astrid Theerens, Leiden University

Astrid Theerens (1996) recently completed her research master’s in European history from 1000 to 1800 at Leiden University to complement her bachelor’s in history at KU Leuven. As a researcher, Astrid has a strong interest in criminal history and the history of emotions in the early modern period. During her studies she worked as a student assistant to Prof. Ariadne Schmidt and Dr Roos van Oosten on the project Leiden’s Pubscape, 1816–1894, resulting in a strong interest in drinking history.




How to Cite

Schmidt, A., Van Oosten, R., & Theerens, A. (2022). To Be Led Astray? : The Effects of the 1881 Liquor Act on the Leiden Alcohol Trade. TSEG - The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 19(3), 5–36.



Research Article