Public houses

Whether you've traveled to the United Kingdom or never set foot on British soil, you've probably heard the term "pub" (college students, after all, are famous for pub crawls).

I knew the word, too, but had never thought to research the etymology. How fascinating, then, to read an article in Newsweek and find that "pub" is short for "public house," and that pubs originated as a space for residents of a village to meet, connect, and arrange the business of the community. It makes sense that in many small villages a pub is the focal point of the community, what we at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship would call a public space. (Also see the organization Project for Public Spaces)

Read William Underhill's Oct. 20 article Hoist One Last Glass; Can Britain still be Britain without its pubs?


I am UK resident and have certainly spent more than a few hours in many a "pub".

I am not sure where Newsweek got their facts, as
Public Houses were always private establishments.

The middle ages community could hardly agree on the "commons" ( common land ).

Suggesting they had money to invest in public meeting rooms is making history fit the story.

Jilly, thank you for reading our blog, and for your comments! I don't believe that Newsweek was implying that the pubs were truly public, i.e. government-owned; instead, as they suggest in the article, the term public in public house indicates an establishment that is at “the hub of local society.?

Coffee chain founder Howard Schultz has expressed the same desire for Starbucks, saying, "We're in the business of human connection and humanity, creating communities in a third place between home and work."

Here are some examples from my own Minneapolis neighborhood, and the neighborhood of the University of Mineapolis, of private establishments offering up public spaces - places where people in a community can come together, no matter who they are. Are there other examples folks can offer?

I would have thought that Newsweek could have gotten more interesting people to refer to when talking about famous people sitting in a pub.

And it is a shame that so many pubs are having to close. To me a pub fits into part of my definition of, well, what was England.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs