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Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition

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A book talk with Mark Schrad, Professor of Political Science, Villanova University

Wednesday, November 2, 2022
12:30 PM (Pacific Time)

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"In this groundbreaking, revisionist work on the history of temperance and prohibition, Schrad makes a compelling case that the temperance movement was not just an American phenomenon but "the most popular, most influential, and longest-lived international social-reform movement in the history of the world" (p. 9) ... This study will go a long way  toward reorienting scholars' approach to temperance and prohibition." -- J. M. Richards, CHOICE

When most people think of the prohibition era, they think of speakeasies, rum runners, and backwoods fundamentalists railing about the ills of strong drink. In other words, in the popular imagination, it is a peculiarly American history.

Yet, as Mark Lawrence Schrad shows in Smashing the Liquor Machine, the conventional scholarship on prohibition is extremely misleading for a simple reason: American prohibition was just one piece of a global phenomenon. Schrad's pathbreaking history of prohibition looks at the anti-alcohol movement around the globe through the experiences of pro-temperance leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Leo Tolstoy, Thomás Masaryk, Kemal Atatürk, Mahatma Gandhi, and anti-colonial activists across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Schrad argues that temperance wasn't "American exceptionalism" at all, but rather one of the most broad-based and successful transnational social movements of the modern era. In fact, Schrad offers a fundamental re-appraisal of this colorful era to reveal that temperance forces frequently aligned with progressivism, social justice, liberal self-determination, democratic socialism, labor rights, women's rights, and indigenous rights. Placing the temperance movement in a deep global context forces us to fundamentally rethink its role in opposing colonial exploitation throughout American history as well. Prohibitionism united Native American chiefs like Little Turtle and Black Hawk; African-American leaders Frederick Douglass, Ida Wells, and Booker T. Washington; suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frances Willard; progressives from William Lloyd Garrison to William Jennings Bryan; writers F.E.W. Harper and Upton Sinclair, and even American presidents from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Progressives rather than puritans, the global temperance movement advocated communal self-protection against the corrupt and predatory “liquor machine” that had become exceedingly rich off the misery and addictions of the poor around the world, from the slums of South Asia to the beerhalls of Central Europe to the Native American reservations of the United States.

Unlike many traditional "dry" histories, Smashing the Liquor Machine gives voice to minority and subaltern figures who resisted the global liquor industry, and further highlights that the impulses that led to the temperance movement were far more progressive and variegated than American readers have been led to believe.



Order Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition from Oxford University Press



Mark Schrad is Professor of Political Science and Director of Russian Area Studies at Villanova University, where he teaches courses on comparative politics, international relations, international law, and Russian and Ukrainian politics. He is the author of three books with Oxford University Press, including Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy and the Secret History of the Russian State (2010), and Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition (2021).




Leslie Johns is a professor of political science and law at UCLA. She is also Associate Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. Her research focuses on international law, organizations, and political economy.

In 2022, Cambridge University Press published her newest book, Politics and International Law: Making, Breaking, and Upholding Global Rules. You can access related news stories on the book's Twitter account: @PoliticsIntlLaw

Her work appears in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Politics. Her first book–Strengthening International Courts: The Hidden Costs of Legalization–was published in 2015 by the University of Michigan Press. She received the Michael Wallerstein Award for political economy in 2017.

She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former research fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University (2012-2013 and 2021-2022).

Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations, Political Science, Department of History, The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law

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