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Easy introduction to Prohibition
on 31 August 2012
An easy to read introduction to the Prohibition Era.
I too have spotted some inaccuracies (and I see from other reviews there are more than I expected), and it's true the book sometimes floats away from the subject matter (the chapter about Chicago was basically NOT about Prohibition). But if you are a newcomer to the Prohibition Era - like I was when I read this book - and you're just trying to get a feeling for this time period and then move on to more in-depth works on the subject, it does the job.
The first part is maybe the more interesting. It deals with the social, political and in part the economical atmosphere at the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX century that permitted the idea of Prohibition to become a reality. Having now read also the more accurate and in-depth treatment offered by Okrent in his book "Last Call", I know this is a partial analysis, still it give an idea of why Prohibition found such a strong support on its way to becoming a law in the USA.
It also offers an introduction (if in many instances very short and essential) of the main actors in the struggle on both sides.
The central part deals with Prohibition proper, or rather to the time of the actual Prohibition. But I was a little disappointed. There is an attempt at a social analysis here, but on the whole the author seems to rely heavily on anecdotes. Granted, there's nothing wrong with it on a general level, but that's certainly not enough to give a feel of how Prohibition really impacted on the lives of so many people, or the role it plaid in the changing of costumes - especially among young people - or the rise of jazz, or the escalation of crime, or a few other matters.
We still find introductions to many important players (again short and essential like in the first part), with the only exception of the life of George Remus, which, for some reason, is explore in depth. Yes, it was interesting, but not so much - in my opinion - to take up a few chapters.
On the whole, it gave me the impression to be a bit superficial, although you do get an idea of how it was in those days.
The last part was disappointing. The reasons why Prohibition was repealed are very superficially and quickly explored. I felt as if much of what was behind it was just left out (and Okrent's book confirmed this when I read it). The repeal of Prohibition is related in very few pages, very fast, and you don't really get a good idea of why it happened.
On the whole, not the best book on Prohibition I read, but still an easy introduction to it.