With our project and a New Year well underway the time seems ripe for a quick update. Since our formal start on the 1 October 2013 we’ve had a busy few months getting the research going, with most of the time spent developing and refining the data entry system for our first research strand on the economy of intoxication.

The initial focus is on port books – annual customs reports of England’s overseas and coastal trade – which survive in large numbers at The National Archives. Our two Research Associates Dr James Brown (looking at Cheshire) and Tim Wales (looking at Norfolk) are now busy gathering and entering a host of data relating to the traffic in intoxicants to and from their respective case studies. This data ranges from the names of ships, captains, and traders to the types and volume of commodities relating to intoxication between 1580 and 1740. Look out for a blog post on the books, and perhaps some live Tweeting, in the near future.

No Let-Up in the Pace: Exploring a representative selection of port books at our first methodological workshop at The National Archives in October 2013.

We’ve also had two methodological workshops, one at the TNA in October to talk about port books and one at Chester Archives and Local Studies in December to talk about consistory court depositions and civic records (in anticipation of future strands). These workshops involved the project team, archivists, academics, postgrads and postdocs, and potential users, and were extremely stimulating and constructive events. We’ll soon be organising a third session in Norwich to think about inventories and quarter sessions, and more thereafter.

While our focus for the foreseeable future will be on research and data collection, we’ve also done a bit of early evangelising. Angela and James gave an overview of the project in a paper at the University of Manchester in early November, while Phil spoke on a panel on ‘What is Addiction’?’ at the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican in October (video below); gave a lecture at an Arts Council-funded evening of poetry and debate about madness (produced by Susannah Trevelyan) in November in Hackney; and contributed historical perspectives to an instalment of BBC Radio 4’s The Long View on electronic cigarettes in January.