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


Product Details

$17.95  $16.69
W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.2 X 0.8 inches | 0.6 pounds

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About the Author

Lisa McGirr is Professor of History at Harvard University, where she specializes in the history of the twentieth-century United States. Her research and teaching interests bridge the fields of social and political history and focus on collective action, state building, reform movements, and politics. Her most recent book, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, won acclaim for excavating the significant but neglected state-building legacies of national Prohibition. Her award-winning first book, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, investigated the social and regional basis of grassroots conservative politics in the post-World War II United States.


In this remarkable book, Lisa McGirr transforms our understanding of Prohibition and its legacy. Moving beyond familiar tales of speakeasies and gangland violence, she shows how this episode contributed to the expansion of the authority of the modern American state and the origins of mass imprisonment. No history could be more timely.--Eric Foner, author of Gateway to Freedom
This is not just the best book ever written about the era of Prohibition; it is a landmark history of modern America. With splendid insight and illuminating details, Lisa McGirr demonstrates that the war on alcohol was the health of the state.--Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers
In her revelatory new book, Lisa McGirr moves Prohibition from the gin-soaked edges of the Roaring Twenties to the heart of the American state.--Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice
[A] fascinating account of Prohibition and its consequences, written with verve, depth, and imagination.--Ira Katznelson, author of Fear Itself
Lisa McGirr has given us an admirably fresh look at a supposedly shopworn subject. She convincingly demonstrates that the Prohibition era deserves to be taken seriously as the nursery of many stubbornly persistent practices, including a moralizing, meddlesome state that targets its punitive powers on the least-advantaged citizens.--David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear
McGirr's book pivots from being a very good, tightly focused history of Prohibition to a great history of broader American politics, one that connects to contemporary issues in a profound way.--Bill Savage
In [McGirr's] view, Prohibition was not a farce but a tragedy, and one that has made a substantial contribution to our current miseries. Nearly a century later . . . the legacy of Prohibition can be seen in our prisons, teeming with people convicted of violating neo-Prohibitionary drug laws. Many at the time viewed Prohibition as an outrage, and, in McGirr's view, we are missing its true meaning if we are not outraged, too--and ready to resist its equally oppressive descendants.--Kelefa Sanneh
McGirr's important new book . . . leaves us with a Prohibition that looks less like an anomaly than an eerily prescient rehearsal for the current national war on drugs.--John Fabian Witt
McGirr's book, fascinating and deeply researched, offers a startlingly fresh argument for why so many of our current problems--from the war on drugs to mass incarceration--grow out of Prohibition. Anyone who wants to understand the 1920s, 1930s, and 2000s should read this book.--Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment