Gentle Knights: Masculinity, Teetotalism and Aid for Alcohol Abuse c. 1900


  • Gemma Blok



Since 1830 there have been Dutch organisations that were concerned with fighting alcohol abuse. The Drink Law of 1881, the result of their lobby, limited the sale of drink and made the punishment of public drunkenness obligatory. Around 1900 there was renewed fervour in the Dutch Temperance Movement: teetotallers came to dominate the movement and created a system for the care of drunkards. This change from a repressive approach to a focus on treatment was accompanied by two differing variants on ‘chivalrous’ masculinity.


Nineteenth century campaigners put their idea of masculinity – controlled, militant, protective of women and children – in the service of state politics. The chivalry of the teetotallers was more personal. They showed their solidarity with problematic drinkers by completely abstaining from alcohol and attempted to save drunkards by setting a good example. The battle against King Alcohol became a fight, man to man, in civil society.


This article is part of the special issue 'Low Countries Histories of Masculinity'.


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Author Biography

Gemma Blok

Gemma Blok (1970) is an Assistant Professor in modern Dutch History at the University of Amsterdam. Her research areas are the history of psychiatry, the history of addiction treatment and gender history. Her publications include Ziek of zwak. Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse verslavingszorg (Amsterdam 2011): ‘The Politics of Intoxication: The Dutch Junkie Unions fight against the Ideal of a Drug Free Society’, in: Martin Dinges and Robert Jütte (eds.), The Transmission of Health Practices (c. 1500-2000) (Stuttgart 2011) 69-89; and Baas in eigen brein. ‘Antipsychiatrie’ in Nederland, 1965-1985 (Amsterdam 2004).




How to Cite

Blok, G. (2012). Gentle Knights: Masculinity, Teetotalism and Aid for Alcohol Abuse c. 1900. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 127(1), 101–126.