Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Dr Yeomans delivers guest presentation at the International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice

11 February 2015 |

Dr Yeomans delivered an invited presentation at the International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice at The Open University on the 6 February.

He discussed preliminary findings from his latest research in a paper titled 'Tax, Morals and Behavioural Regulation: The Case of Alcohol Excise Duties'.


The Coalition Government justified recent increases in the excise duty imposed on alcoholic drinks with reference to the aims of “helping to address the harms associated with problem drinking” and giving “responsible drinkers additional choice” (Seely, 2012:19). This rhetoric indicates that excise duties are used to regulate behaviour, to shape people’s lifestyles into more desirable forms, rather than purely to raise revenue. Is this really the case? In the Middle Ages, the Assize of Bread and Ale 1267 sought to ensure the availability of beer by limiting its price. Since then, excise duties have become a means to inflate the price of alcohol in order to raise revenue and/or shape behaviour. When and why did alcohol become a legitimate object of taxation? Have alcohol excise duties become a means of regulating drinking and other forms of problematic behaviour? What normative or moral judgments are involved in their use? This paper will present the preliminary findings of an ongoing research project which examines the historical development of alcohol excise duties. With reference to the concept of moral regulation and processes of state formation, it will examine the shifting fiscal and moral functions of alcohol taxation across the modern historical period.

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