First successful defence of 2023: Dr. Jesse Abbott

Friday, February 17, 2023

Jesse Abbott’s dissertation, “‘The Art of Getting Drunk:’ Martial Masculinity, Alcohol, and the British Army in the Canadas in the War of 1812,” was successfully defended on Thursday, January 19, 2023, at the University of Waterloo. His is the first successful defence in the Tri-U History Program in 2023.

Abbott’s thesis argues that alcohol consumption, both real and perceived, played a key role in the construction and negotiation of masculine identities within the British army in the Canadas during the early nineteenth century. Officers in particular proved their manliness and constructed their dual gentleman-officer identity not only by fighting well, but also by socializing and drinking well; by demonstrating what the famous moral essayist, Dr. Samuel Johnson, called “skill in inebriation,” or the “art of getting drunk.” Officers constructed their own masculine identity in direct relation to those with whom they interacted, specifically enlisted soldiers (and non-commissioned officers or NCO’s), Indigenous allies, and American enemies, and these constructions were heavily informed by early nineteenth century perceptions of alcohol.

Dr. Abbott was supervised by Dr. Julia Roberts. Other supervising members on his committee included Dr. Douglas Peers, Dr. Jane Nicholas, and Dr. Susan Roy. The external examiner was Dr. Jennine Hurl-Eamon of Trent University, and the internal-external member was Dr. Fraser Easton of Waterloo’s English Language and Literature department.

Jesse expresses gratitude to all his supervising committee members as well as for the support from the library, especially for resources made available during the pandemic. Fellow students, Preston Arens, Sarah McTavish who are recent successful defendants, as well as Lucy Vorobej, and Brandon Mendonca are appreciated for providing “study help, many rounds of edits, and most importantly, commiseration.”

The Tri-U wishes Dr. Abbott well as he pursues further work and research opportunities.

Thomas Rowlandson. Learning to Smoke and Drink Grog from "The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome." 1815. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Men around a table drinking

Description from dissertation (Figure 4, p. 112): "Five officers, at least two of senior rank, are gathered around a table in the officers’ mess smoking cigars, taking snuff, and drinking (wine and tea). Johnny Newcome stands with his back to the table, violently ill."