Dec. 15, 2022

The Prohibition era (1920-33) plays a far more significant role in U.S. history than is commonly assumed. Yes, it clearly failed in its objectives. And, yes, the assumptions that led to the rapid enactment of the 18th Amendment were massively flawed. But Prohibition was, as Lisa McGirr, professor of history at Harvard, argues in her book, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, “one of the boldest and most radical social efforts to alter personal behavior in the nation’s history and one that would have dramatic though unintended consequences for nation-state building and for politics.” It is also, not surprisingly, inseparable from the broader history of drug prohibition and drug wars since the start of the 20th century.

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