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on April 22, 2003
Mr. Behr's book gets off to a good start, with the first 70 or so pages describing historical attitudes towards liquor in the 19th century in the U.S. and how attitudes toward alcohol grew less and less permissive over the years.
However, the remaining 175 pages or so is like a biography of George Remus and the major players behind illicit alcohol manufacture and transport. While this was interesting up to a point, there was far more about the lives of these people than I cared to read, and I found myself skipping many pages.
Also, I was disappointed that Mr. Behr skirted the involvement of the mafia during the prohibition era, with only a brief mention of such household prohibition-era gangsters as Al Capone and "Lucky" Luciano.
I wished Mr. Behr would have taken a more humanistic perspective and taken us inside speakeasies, examined the social impacts of prohibition such as the growth in the popularity of jazz during prohibition, and explored the attitudes of the numerous otherwise law-abiding citizens who had no problems with drinking liquor illegally.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I wish that the author would have structured it differently.
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on December 13, 1999
Considering the topic material covered, this was an excellent book. It was very informative and displayed much needed facts in an easy to read manner. I read this book for a history class and it gave me good insight on the early twentieth century. The book was slow to begin with but farther into it, it became more interesting covering such details as the highly influential gangsters of the time as well as the politicians, who were not so surprisingly involved in the underworld. I recommend this as a very informative book for those who have trouble finding easy-to-read material concerning American history.
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on August 30, 2001
I found this to be a good book in two ways.
First, it gave an interesting and quite accurate account of what America was like under Prohibition. For students and amateur historians seeking to learn about the Roaring 20s, this would be a good choice.
Secondly, this book has relevance to our own time as well. As the author constantly notes, there are many parallels between Prohibition in the 20s and today's "War on Drugs." What I found most tragic about the campaign to outlaw alcohol in the 20s was the naivte of people in authority, thinking they could change behavior through legislation. As history shows, the 18th Amendment led not to the elimination of alcohol consumption in America, but rather to a general disrespect for law and law enforcement personnel. And the absence of most legal liquor simply resulted in a profusion of illegal liquor, which in turn enriched and encouraged the notorious "gangsters" of the era.
This book has made me rethink my opinion of the "War on Drugs," and on Prohibition itself. I am not a drinker, nor do I use drugs; so I have always had an indifferent attitude toward prohibition legislation, perhaps sometimes even leaning in favor of a legal clampdown. However, after reading Mr. Behr's account of what happened to America during the 13 years of Prohibition, I now seriously doubt both the effectiveness and the wisdom of such laws.
Perhaps the New York politician of the era, Fiorello La Guardia, had it right when he said, "Excessive drinking [and drug use, for that matter] can be curbed by education, not legislation."
To sum up, this is a book that will not only teach you a bit of history; it will also make you think. I recommend it!
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2007
Edward Behr's book provides an adequate, if somewhat unexceptional, survey of the Prohibition Era, but the author relies too often on other secondary sources. As such, the book never rises above the routine. Behr takes a breezy approach to the material, so this particular book cannot be considered serious scholarship.

There are some instances of sloppiness and a lack of attention to detail. "Dan O'Banion" was not the name of a prominent Chicago bootlegger (Dean O'Banion was the actual person). The chapter on Chicago during Prohibition is riddled with similar errors and mistakes. Morris Eller and Emanuel Eller were not prominent Chicago Democrats. Mayor William Dever was not a committed "Dry." Although Clarence Darrow was often identified with the Democratic Party, he served in the Illinois General Assembly as a Prohibition Party representative, but Behr identifies him as a lifelong "Wet." The notorious criminal gang from St. Louis was known as "Egan's Rats," not "Regan's Rats."

Behr devotes considerable time to the lobbyists from the Anti-Saloon League, but minimizes the roles played by feminists and progressives in promoting prohibition. Frances Willard, a leader at Northwestern University and an advocate of women's suffrage, was also the leader of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. After the repeal of prohibition, it became fashionable to blame the passage of the amendment solely on the evangelicals and religious fanatics, but the feminists and progressives must also be held accountable and share in the overall blame.

There are some interesting and entertaining anecdotes conveyed in the book, but the treatment of the topic is definitely lightweight and stereotypical. Behr manages to recycle some old canards about William Hale Thompson and Warren Harding, but still manages to outline some of the essentials.
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on August 31, 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.
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PROHIBITION is a great book to read if you want to know how Prohibition came about. The first half of the book does an excellent job describing how the 18th Amendment came about and the context in which Prohibition rose. There's a lot of key historical details there. Unfortunately, placing the event in context is not something that the author does for the remainder of the work. The last half of the book describes just a few major players during the Prohibition years and the downfall of Prohibition is written more as a brief epilogue than anything else.

I found PROHIBITION to be a very interesting book. I enjoyed reading it and learned a few things. However, the subtitle of the book is "Thirteen Years That Changed America" and though he does extrapolate how those thirteen years changed America, there really isn't a whole lot in the book that really describes what went on during those thirteen years. Still it is an intersting read, especially since there are so few books out about this era of America history.
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on January 13, 2016
There is a great deal of information to absorb, but much of it is repetitive and very dry. The author spent a great deal of time focusing on a handful of individuals, including President Warren Harding. While Harding was President during the early years of prohibition, he was not a central figure in its undoing.

There were numerous typographical errors throughout the book. The editor must have slept through the reading. The errors were more annoying than dysfunctional.
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on December 5, 2002
A comprehensive historical account of how Prohibition came to be complete with vivid characters, noteworthy events, and corrupt politicians and public officials running wild! An effective account on the temptation of alcohol in the 18th and 19th century is used to lead up to the pre-Prohibition era. It was interesting to read that 19th century saloon keepers were often seen as the most cultured political influences in a time void of radio and television. From Carrie Nation to George Remus, whose life and times was a loose inspiration for Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, everything is here. A very thought-provoking read whether you are a "wet" or a "dry," "Prohibition" is well written and well researched.
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on October 21, 2014
Very thorough and interesting history of the Prohibition, from roots in pre-colonial days through and post-1932 (repeal). While it mainly does not go deeply into personalities, the "big picture" that it gives is very concise. I also enjoyed the observations on the aftermath that the "great experiment" has had on current American society and going forward.
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on December 14, 2014
This is very informative, but kind of makes you feel like you're sitting in history class, although this goes much deeper into it than a class ever would. There are some lessons from prohibition we still need to learn, but we are slowly waking up to the fact that we've lost the war on drugs.
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