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Prohibition: A Very Short Introduction [#632]
Prohibition: A Very Short Introduction [#632]
  • A short and engaging synthesis of Prohibition that illuminates its deep impact on American history, culture, and law from the 1920s to the present
  • Traces the origins of Prohibition back to the evangelical-based voluntary abstinence temperance movement in the early 1800s
  • Makes clear that public support for Prohibition collapsed due to gangster violence and the need for local, state, and federal government alcohol revenue during the Great Depression

Americans have always been a hard-drinking people, but from 1920 to 1933 the country went dry. After decades of pressure from rural Protestants such as the hatchet-wielding Carry A. Nation and organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League, the states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Bolstered by the Volstead Act, this amendment made Prohibition law: alcohol could no longer be produced, imported, transported, or sold. This bizarre episode is often humorously recalled, frequently satirized, and usually condemned. The more interesting questions, however, are how and why Prohibition came about, how Prohibition worked (and failed to work), and how Prohibition gave way to strict governmental regulation of alcohol. This book answers these questions, presenting a brief and elegant overview of the Prohibition era and its legacy.
During the 1920s alcohol prices rose, quality declined, and consumption dropped. The black market thrived, filling the pockets of mobsters and bootleggers. Since beer was too bulky to hide and largely disappeared, drinkers sipped cocktails made with moonshine or poor-grade imported liquor. The all-male saloon gave way to the speakeasy, where together men and women drank, smoked, and danced to jazz.
After the onset of the Great Depression, support for Prohibition collapsed because of the rise in gangster violence and the need for revenue at local, state, and federal levels. As public opinion turned, Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to repeal Prohibition in 1932. The legalization of beer came in April 1933, followed by the Twenty-first Amendment's repeal of the Eighteenth that December. State alcohol control boards soon adopted strong regulations, and their legacies continue to influence American drinking habits. Soon after, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The alcohol problem had shifted from being a moral issue during the century to a social, cultural, and political one during the campaign for Prohibition, and finally, to a therapeutic one involving individuals. As drinking returned to pre-Prohibition levels, a Neo-Prohibition emerged, led by groups such as Mothers against Drunk Driving, and ultimately resulted in a higher legal drinking age and other legislative measures.
With his unparalleled expertise regarding American drinking patterns, W. J. Rorabaugh provides an accessible synthesis of one of the most important topics in US history, a topic that remains relevant today amidst rising concerns over binge-drinking and alcohol culture on college campuses.


Chapter 1: Drinking and Temperance
Chapter 2: The Dry Crusade
Chapter 3: Prohibition
Chapter 4: Repeal
Chapter 5: Legacies
Further Reading

About the author: 

W. J. Rorabaugh is Dio Richardson Professor of History at the University of Washington. He is the author of six books, including The Alcoholic Republic and American Hippies.

"Prof. Rorabaugh has a firm grip on his subject, and the book is a handy reliable source of background information on the Prohibition movement." - James Hedges, "The National Prohibitionist

Product details

ISBN : 9780190280109

W. J. Rorabaugh
152 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jan 2020
Very Short Introductions
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Prohibition: A Very Short Introduction [#632]

Prohibition: A Very Short Introduction [#632]

Prohibition: A Very Short Introduction [#632]