Friday, March 11, 2011

Fjordman: Is There A Genetic Basis For Northern European Drunkenness?

Fjordman’s latest essay has been published at Tundra Tabloids. Some excerpts are below:

According to historian Chris Wickham, “Aristocratic clothing, marked by a large amount of gold and jewellery worn on the person and (for men) a prominent belt, similarly bejewelled, descended from the military costume of the Roman period, and so did the symbolism of the belt itself, which generally represented military or political office (though by now the belt was bigger and flashier than under Rome). Eligius of Noyon, when a secular official for Dagobert I in the 630s, was already saintly enough to give his ornamenta to the poor; Dagobert gave him another belt, however; he could not avoid wearing that.

Royal and aristocratic courts also had a different etiquette from those of the Roman world. The otium of the Roman civilian aristocracy, literary house-parties in well-upholstered rural villas, and the decorum of at least some imperial dinner parties, was replaced by what sometimes seems a jollier culture. This was focused on eating large quantities of meat and getting drunk on wine, mead or beer, together with one’s entourage, usually in a large, long hall. In Italy, drunkenness was possibly less acceptable, but north of the Alps it appears in every society.”

It is striking to notice that drunkenness was more widespread and socially accepted in many northern European societies than it was in some of the Mediterranean ones already during the Early Middle Ages, if not before. The same basic pattern remains in place nearly fifteen hundred years later: Drunkenness is currently more widespread, or certainly more socially acceptable, among the British, the Irish, the Scandinavians and the Russians in far northern Europe than it is among the Spanish, the Italians and the Greeks in far southern Europe.

Obviously, there may be cultural reasons for this pattern, too, but then culture itself quite frequently has a major genetic component. Could this be true here as well? We know that Italians are less lactose tolerant than Scandinavians. Is it possible that some of the populations in the south and especially southeast, who have had agriculture and wine drinking significantly longer than the populations in the far northern fringes of the Continent, have therefore developed stronger protection against alcoholism? Vice versa, is there a genetic basis for northern European drunkenness? Maybe the British and the Finns are semi-Eskimos?

Read the rest at Tundra Tabloids.


Blogger said...

I agree. Euopeans have more genetic immunity to alcohol because it has been in the culture for centuries. People who come from non-drinking cultures that go back generations, are far more sensitive to alcohol. The Australian aborigines are a classic example. Alcohol was introduced into their culture just over a 100 years ago, and they nearly all develop alcoholism and aggressive behaviour if they drink, while this only happens to a small % of europeans.

Small amounts of alcohol are good for you! As long as there is that genetic immunity. Islamic countries have done themselves a disservice by banning alcohol.


bewick said...

nice try Fjordman but hardly accurate and somewhat misleading and scientifically flawed.

If drunkeness really was genetically based then I'd miss the mould.
My parents and my grandparents drank little if any alcohol.They were of Anglo German stock. I only ONCE saw my Dad drunk. It was Christmas.
My sister is completely teetotal.
I rarely drank much at all until my late 30s/early 40s and only then as a relief from a bad marriage.

I actually grew up in a IK coal mining village. The miners certainly got drunk on Friday and Saturday nights as I saw whilst serving in the pub during my last year of school.
I doubt they did that as a result of genetics. More likely as a relief from the hard work and the wish to clear the coaldust from their tubes.

Sorry to say but this article is somewhat below your usual high standard.

Anonymous said...

I am a tad disappointed, too. This is a fascinating subject that one could mine for all sorts of interesting insights. Fjordman merely brushed the surface and in a curiously oblique way, too. Something funny happened on the way to Tundra.
For one, with the onslaught of Islam, the fate of alcohol becomes curiously intertwined with that of our civilization. In this country, there seems to be a bit of a divide, where more drinking is done on the right and more drug-taking on the left. (This is a very general and highly personal observation – feel free to disagree - from someone who in the past partook of and enjoyed both). Exceptions are plenty; libs love proclaiming their connoisseurship of wine, for example – but I still wonder how they will fare when sharia is adopted and pinot noir will be treated much as hashish treated today.
As for the subj itself, I am in two minds: all told, the French and the Italian consume more alcohol than Scandinavians, but the latter tend to binge more, while the south treats alcohol more like food and stretches it for longer periods of time. What that has to do with the nobility’s love of hunting, I am not sure.

The Sentinel said...


“nice try Fjordman but hardly accurate and somewhat misleading and scientifically flawed.”

I haven’t seen you even begin to prove that statement at all.

All I have seen here is a personal anecdote that you appear to think is science.

jon said...

I've always assumed there was a genetic link after I read something similar about people of Celtic descent and alcohol in Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw's Life Extension: a practical scientific approach.

A quick google finds this abstract: with this conclusion:

Conclusion: Doctors should be aware of the high prevalence of alcoholic dependence among people with Celtic names, whether these were born in Celtic countries or not, entertain a high index of diagnostic suspicion and take preventative measures accordingly

This ties in with my personal experience in England [as an alcohol drinker with Celtic links] and someone living in a community with large numbers of people of Celtic descent. You'll even hear people say "It's in my genes", Sometimes they're joking or using it as an excuse to drink. But often they're serious. said...

In many ways, the trend in Italy is to more restrictive laws about alcholic beverages and, by the reverse, more binge drinking in the younger generations.
There are more drunk people visible now than 30 years ago, when they were near unseen in public places.

Alcholism is diffused in northern Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto) more than in the southern part. This is linked with greater use of stong distilled liquors like "grappa" and others.

Now, in Italy we consume less wine (and I suppose beer) than before, but public drunkness is more visible as are stoned people.

Alcholism was more about old retired wasting thir time playing with cards in public locals (Osterie) and lonely housewives.

In the same time, the age children are allowed to taste wine and beer is raising.

My opinion is that allowing children to taste a small quantity of wine or beer (under adult/parent supervision) is enough to prevent them from fantasizing and making a big thing of it. Also the headache after will remind them how it is to drink too much (children have not all enzymes needed to methabolyze alchool).

Zenster said...

There is a much more simple explanation that encompasses both the difference between the attitudes of Northern and Southern Europe while also taking into account Islam's prohibition on alcohol.


The more conservative Southern European cultures were also home to substantially greater amounts of familial and clan intrigues. Islam is nothing if not one continuous internecine plot of brother against brother, family against family and tribe against tribe.

Imbibing any substantial amount of alcohol tends to disinhibit a person's verbal and emotional expression. This is a bad thing if you are trying to conceal your intent to carry out a decades or centuries old vendetta; or even just stab your older brother so you don't end up being the family goatherd.

A loosened tongue in Mediterranean and Islamic cultures carried far more chances of compromise.

Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading The Fall of the Roman Empire, by Peter Heather (very worthwhile book), and he mentions that Romans had a saying, "drinking like a barbarian." So even by the fourth century, the Romans noted the Germanic tribes drank more than Romans.