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Prohibition: 18th and 21st Amendments

Prohibition was a period in American history from 1920 to 1933 when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages were banned by the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Temperance Movement, a social reform effort aimed at reducing the negative social consequences associated with alcohol consumption, drove this sweeping policy. The movement gained momentum in the late 19th century as advocates, often influenced by religious and moral beliefs, sought to address issues such as domestic violence, crime, and public health problems they believed were exacerbated by alcohol.

The Temperance Movement's influence led to the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, marking the first time in U.S. history that the Constitution was amended to curtail personal behavior. However, Prohibition faced numerous challenges, including widespread flouting of the law, organized crime's rise due to the lucrative illegal alcohol trade, and the difficulty of enforcing such a sweeping ban. These issues ultimately contributed to Prohibition's decline in popularity and effectiveness.

In 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and ending Prohibition. This marked a significant shift in national policy as the negative consequences of Prohibition became increasingly evident, including the growth of underground speakeasies and a spike in organized crime. The 21st Amendment also granted individual states the authority to regulate alcohol, leading to a patchwork of alcohol laws that still exist today. Prohibition's legacy includes reshaping the alcohol industry, fostering criminal enterprises, and spurring debates over the role of government in regulating personal behaviors. Additionally, it highlighted the complexities of trying to legislate morality and the limitations of using laws to enforce changes in social behavior.


Additional Resources:


Prohibition – 18th and 21st Amendments


Prohibition of Liquor


Repeal of Prohibition


18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Primary Documents in American History


The 18th and 21st Amendments: Prohibition in America



  1. "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" by Daniel Okrent

  2. "Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America" by Edward Behr

  3. "Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America" by Peter Andreas 

  4. "Prohibition in the United States: A History from Beginning to End" by Hourly History

  5. "Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition" by Karen Blumenthal

  6. "Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey" by Fred Minnick

  7. "The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State" by Lisa McGirr

  8. "Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City" by Michael A. Lerner

  9. "Prohibition: A Concise History" by W.J. Rorabaugh

  10. "Prohibition: The Era of Excess" by Andrew Sinclair

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