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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Drunk: How We Singed, Danced, and Stumbled Our Ways to Civilization

00:00 44:03
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Humans love to drink. We have a glass or two when bonding with friends, celebrating special occasions, releasing some stress at happy hour, and definitely when coping with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. But when you consider the consequences—hangovers, addiction, physical injury, and more—shouldn't evolution have taught us to avoid it?

And yet, our taste for alcohol has survived almost as long as humans have been around. So why do humans love to get intoxicated?

Today’s guest, Edward Slingerland (author of the book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization) shows us why our fondness for intoxication has survived so long, how our favorite vice influenced the growth of civilizations, and why society as we know it couldn’t have emerged without alcohol.

We discuss anecdotes and research, including:

•Archeological evidence suggests that the desire for alcohol—not food—was the key driver of the agricultural revolution, and therefore civilization
• When humans were forced to abstain or drink in isolation during Prohibition, new patent applications decreased by 15%, then quickly rebounded as speakeasies and other creative ways of social drinking emerged
•George Washington insisted that alcohol was essential for military morale and urged Congress to establish public distilleries to keep the US Army stocked with booze
•Folk beliefs about drinking and bonding are bolstered by laboratory experiments suggesting that alcohol enhances group identity, interpersonal liking, and self-disclosure.
•Being a little drunk makes you a worse liar, but it also makes you a better lie detector.
August 31, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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