cover image The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

Lisa McGirr. Norton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-06695-1

The Hollywood narrative of Prohibition as a time of gangsters spraying bullets from machine guns is blown wide open in McGirr’s ambitious history of the 14-year period in early 20th-century America and its repercussions for social mores, public policy, and the criminal justice system. Using personal papers as well as records of state and federal commissions on enforcement, McGirr (Suburban Warriors), a professor of history at Harvard, delves into the details of the often uneasy alliances between Protestant temperance advocates, who fought for the Volstead Act and ratification of the 18th Amendment, and Klansmen, who helped enforce liquor laws on the local level. McGirr touches on oft-glamorized tales of bootlegging gangsters and speakeasies, instead choosing to focus on the stories of everyday victims of enforcement based on racial, religious, and class discrimination. This occurred in tandem with the racial integration of Southern bootleggers and speakeasy patrons. Both sobering and enlightening, McGirr’s work gives Prohibition and its consequences a much-needed reexamination that provides insights relevant to today’s War on Drugs. Photos. [em](Nov.) [/em]