Genever and Gin Consumption in the Age of Sail: The Netherlands and the United Kingdom
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This thesis analyzes the historical, pictorial, and archaeological evidence for genever (Dutch gin) and gin consumption among sailors in the Dutch Republic and the United Kingdom during the Age of Sail (1550-1850). While excessive alcohol consumption among mariners is a commonly cited stereotype, there has been surprisingly little critical scholarly work on this assertion. Gin’s usage by the Dutch Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) and Dutch Navy for medicinal purposes has been noted, but no thorough analysis of alcohol consumption broadly in a Dutch maritime context has been done to date. Gin, or genever in English, was produced as early as the thirteenth century in Flanders. In its early form, it was a grain spirit closer to today’s sweet, malted whiskey. By the late seventeenth century, genever was produced in large quantities in Holland under the term jenever (denoting the juniper berries used in its manufacture) and it appears for the first time in the Dutch National Dictionary in 1672. As genever consumption increased on land, it also came into use on ships for medicinal purposes; it is this maritime usage that is the primary focus of the thesis. Genever starts appearing on ration lists as early as 1713, and this gives evidence for how much of the juniper liquor sailors and other passengers were consuming. By the nineteenth century, sailors’ rations were 0.074 kan (75 ml) three times a day—nearly a full cup of neat alcohol. The Royal Navy brought gin on its ships after it became popular in England during the eighteenth century. British usage differed from the Dutch, however, in that only officers drank gin at sea. Gin was also used in the Royal Navy for medicinal purposes because it masked the bad taste of many medicines. This thesis reviews the scant existing scholarship on gin’s existence onboard European vessels and surveys the archaeological record of Dutch shipwrecks for the presence of gin bottles and jugs. It incorporates primary archival research conducted in the Netherlands and provides new insight into use of juniper-based drink on voyages.
Jarvis, Charlotte Amalie Keatinge (2022). Genever and Gin Consumption in the Age of Sail: The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from