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I assume that alcoholic drinks served two main purposes in centuries gone by:

  1. To purify water for consumption
  2. Drunkenness

I'm not clear on number one being the case, and if it is I'm not sure which played a more prominent role in drinking alcohol. Did most people drink alcohol to avoid getting sick, or were they just drunks like us?

closed as off-topic by congusbongus, andy256, CGCampbell, Semaphore, Pieter Geerkens May 12 '15 at 3:19

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  • "Questions on social sciences other than History are off-topic here, unless they also involve history in some fashion. While ethics, archaeology, etc. are all connected to history, each field has their own experts who are better equipped to answer such questions." – congusbongus, andy256, CGCampbell, Semaphore, Pieter Geerkens
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  • Like us? So you blindly assume all other SE users are drunks? – Bregalad May 12 '15 at 9:28
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    I disagree that this is off-topic. The main role of alcohol isn't up for debate, it should have a well defined answer, even if that answer is 'there isn't a main role' And Bregalad it was a joke alluding to modern societies mostly being alcohol abusers. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 15:27
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    I sometimes come off as a little more abrasive than I intend.. not my intention at all, but for as long as I've been using the Stack Exchange platform I still have trouble adapting to many of the communities and understanding a lot of mod actions. But I guess we're all human. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 16:03
  • No worries, I don't mind. – Bregalad May 13 '15 at 7:23
  • In the middle ages alcohol was food. If it was for example not provided in an army there would be complaints. – Bookeater May 15 '15 at 20:31
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Your thinking is overly binary. It is very possible, indeed likely, that it was likely a combination of the two plus a few other factors you are forgetting depending on place/time/occasion/society.

Other factors in alcohol use:

  1. Culture
  2. Taste
  3. Preservation of foodstuff
  4. Others
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    Makes sense. I guess the question then becomes 'how did alcohol originate'. Did somebody accidentally get drunk and have a eureka moment, or did it arise out of the need to purify water. After that point it would have just been.. happening because of a range of factors. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 19:23
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    Alcohol originate independently at various periods of time in different parts of the globe. Due to the lack of scientific method, I think we can assume it was almost always discovered by accident (fermenting fruit would be a good source, see example of drunk animals discovering fermented fruits). Why it caught on is likely taste/fun/culture/Preservation of foodstuffs/Medicinal – Stuart Allan May 12 '15 at 20:08

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