Dutch were "moderate" drinkers in early 1900s, compared to other Europeans

Netherlands residents were not big drinkers in the early 20th century when compared to other Europeans. In the years 1900 to 1904, the per capita use of beer, wine and spirits in the Netherlands was 5.6 liters of pure alcohol - about half of the 10.8 liters in Denmark and 11.2 liters in England, a third of the 14.8 liters in Italy, and a quarter of the 22.5 liters in France, Statistics Netherlands reported on Monday.

The decline in alcohol consumption in the Netherlands after 1900 was partly the result of restrictive drinking laws, increases in excise duties, and social developments such as the emergence of sports and exercise activities that went hand-in-hand with moderation, according to the stats office. 

For example, the Beverage Act of 1904 gave municipalities the power to limit the issuance of licenses for the sale of spirits, and to limit the number of outlets. The number of alcohol sale permits decreased especially strongly in reformed municipalities. 

The moderation among the Dutch also had to do with an organized fight against excessive alcohol use in the Netherlands, according to the stats office. "Pastors, doctors, and schoolmasters were bombarding the population with leaflets against the dangers of liquor, requests for legislation, and tax increases since the thirties," the stats office said. 

Together, these factors resulted in the use of distilled liquor declining from around 4 liters per capita in the early 1900's to less than 1 liter per capita in the late 1930's.