Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




London's early modern brewing trade was a dynamic one that was constantly in flux throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. This dissertation seeks to better understand how issues of gender, ethnicity, and class changed and shaped London's early modern brewing industry. Women played a vital role in the production and marketing of ale in London's medieval brewing trade. They were displaced from that position of prominence through the introduction of hops by foreign immigrants, known to strangers to their hosts, and the desire of the City of London to more closely regulate the trade in ale and beer. Those forces combined to marginalize women in the trade as they were replaced by male strangers brewing beer.

Those strangers came to control the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century brewing trade. Their product, beer, was superior to English ale in durability and cost less to produce. As London began to transition from an ale-drinking community to a beer-drinking one, the community of beer-brewing strangers came under attack on several fronts. Their guild, the Beer Brewers chartered in 1493, was consolidated within Ale Brewers' Guild in 1556 and in 1573 the now native-dominated guild issued an order banning strangers from the guild for ten years. Following shortly on the heels of that order, the City of London banned strangers from becoming members of London's guilds and, by extension, from joining London's leadership. Together the Brewers' Company and the City limited opportunities for strangers, which would lead to the trade becoming dominated by natives by 1600.

Native brewers had cut out many of their competitors by 1600, but were vulnerable to other threats. The greatest threat to their existence across the seventeenth and early eighteenth century was taxation by the English state. Although an attempt to tax the industry failed in 1637, an excise tax on beer was introduced in 1643 and became the backbone of government excise revenues throughout the next two centuries. London brewers were forced to adapt to the excise. Some became quite successful, expanding their breweries and influence in local and national politics. Most, however, found that the extra burden of the excise made investing in the expansion of their breweries impossible. This situation became acute following the revolution of 1688-89 as the English state demanded ever more through the excise. Those demands exacerbated already existing tensions between smaller and larger brewers in the London community, which came to a head in the early eighteenth century as many smaller brewers were forced from the trade and their share of the market gobbled up by their larger competitors. Following the introduction of porter, a beer suited to industrialized production, to London around 1720, the last piece of the puzzle for the rise of the great industrial brewers, such as the Calverts and Thrales, was in place. What had been a trade that was once dominated by marginalized populations in the form of women and strangers was now controlled by an industrialized elite.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.