How Prohibition Shaped America

Historian Lisa McGirr discusses "The War on Alcohol" and the modern nation

January 15, 2016

Prohibition gave us speakeasies, jazz clubs and bathtub gin.  But a new revisionist history uncovers a more disturbing legacy: campaigns against immigrants, the War on Drugs,and the rise of America's "incarceration nation" . Historian Lisa McGirr's "War on Alcohol" traces the unintended consequences of America's experiment in collective, state-sponsored renunciation.

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"Revisionist history"? How so?

If this is revisionist, it's a revision that began twenty years ago, at least. Not least of this avalanche of reassessment was the recent (2011) elaborate television documentary series from Ken Burns regarding the subject. Such arcane venues as Public Television seem to have escaped Mr Tungekar.

All such revisionism - mostly, generated in Eastern seaboard metropolitan areas and their academic mausolea of privilege - conveniently dismisses the enormous toll that alcohol consumption had taken in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The only group more willing to condemn historical efforts to curb American dipsomania than are Eastern academics is the journalist class, themselves well known for the preponderance among their cohort of perpetual intoxication.

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