It is considered in most places of today’s modern world to be a basic adult right to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in the evening after a hard day of work. Alcoholic liquids are one of the earliest forms of aids used to modify feelings within the body. How exactly alcohol came about is still a bit of a mystery since it has been around before writing was wide spread and used for more than record keeping. We do know that it probably first came about somewhere in what is known as the Cradle of Life—or what we currently call the Middle East. The effects of alcohol on the human body has always fascinated us as a species. Yet, this alteration of our natural mental and emotional state from the mere consumption of a fermented liquid has the ability to frighten in addition to that innate captivation. This fear leads to certain cultures of certain times to ban the drinking of alcohol—called merely prohibition most of the time. Prohibition of alcohol restricts or completely forbids the sale, manufacture, transport, export, or import of alcoholic beverages. The term itself is also applied to certain eras in history in particular countries or civilizations that have disallowed alcoholic consumption for a specific time—typically when referring to nations with a link to European culture as the ban is generally contained to a collection of years before it is eventually ended.
One of the most prominent and well known prohibition acts before the temperance movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s is the restriction of alcohol in the Muslim world. The earliest and longest lasting prohibition of alcohol is in the Islamic tradition, reinforced by the embedding of cautions against drinking in the religious teachings of the Quran. Various periods in history and each individual nation which follows the Islamic Law that bans alcoholic consumption have been through a wavy pattern. Some times in certain Islamic countries the prohibition laws have been incredibly strict to relatively lax. However, especially during the high Islamic holidays, most nations of Muslim roots hold very tightly to the complete restriction of any alcoholic beverage—even to the point of barring alcohol from non-Islamic visitors or tourists in certain areas or entire countries.
The start of people beginning to be wary of alcohol has its roots in different places with different levels of society in each individual area. However, as a general rule in the countries of European traditions, the Protestant footholds in specific places were strong enough to create an innate aversion to alcoholic beverages in the first place. The Protestant work ethic and dedication to maintaining a type of internal, soul based cleanliness (following along the proverb of the body being a temple) made the consumption (at least the intense consumption) of alcohol contrary to their firmly held beliefs. While the consumption and sale of alcohol has never been banned in the United Kingdom during the heyday of prohibition around the late 1800s and early 1900s, the strong historical Quaker presence in the Birmingham suburbs of Bournville, Northfield, and Selly Oak (known collectively as the Bournville Village Trust) has kept the area “dry” for over 100 years, beginning in 1879 with the founding of the first Cadbury chocolate factory and continuing until today when residents won a legal battle to keep the supermarket Tesco from selling alcohol in a local outlet in March 2007.
Then, the combination of the beginning of the women’s rights movement during this period before the 1900s added a special twist as most of the Western culture considered drinking to be a male occupation—meaning that men would go out, get drunk, and then come home to beat their wives. Therefore, in the eyes of many women who were seeking equal rights for their sex, the pursuit of prohibition was also the quest of stemming or even ending domestic violence completely. The Zapatista Communities of Mexico embraced and currently hold to the idea of prohibition as a way to decrease domestic violence in certain areas and tends to be greatly favored by women even though the national government strongly opposes the movement. In 1846, a lithograph called The Drunkard’s Progess was created by Nathaniel Currier to help put the idea of prohibition in the minds of common citizens. This early piece helped to get the ball rolling on stamping out alcohol consumption, but it wasn’t until the turn of the century that laws were put into place and then enforced.
One of the earliest instances of government sponsored and carried out prohibition was in Canada—Prince Edward Island to be specific. Other provinces were not nearly as devout in prohibition like this little island that banned alcohol from 1907 until 1948. Nordic countries like Iceland, Norway, and Finland also hopped on the prohibition wagon with the exception of Denmark. The country of Iceland prohibited alcohol from 1915 until 1922, with an even more heavily enforced ban on beer until 1989! Distilled beverages were banned in Norway from 1916 to 1927 with a slightly less restriction on beer and fortified wine that only lasted from 1917 until 1923. Total prohibition was rejected in Sweden in 1922, but the country did enforce a rationing system (called motboken or the Bratt System) from 1914 until 1955.
The Prohibition Era in the United States is probably the most infamous though as the counterculture that went against the movement was very popular in its own way. From 1920 until 1933, alcohol was completely banned in the U.S. However, bootlegging (the creation of homemade alcoholic beverages in underground, illegal distilleries) and the control of the sale and transport of alcohol by organized crime caused prohibition to be a huge failure. Several places throughout the country became havens for prohibition dodgers because of the massive influence of organized crime in certain cities such as Chicago. During the “Roaring Twenties” alcohol consumption had to go underground, and it created a whole subculture of relatively law abiding citizens who were giving their money to the support of truly illegal activities (murder, gun sales, and other favorites of crime organizations) simply because a swig of alcohol would put these normal people in jail or at least fine them a great deal of money. “Speak-Easies” were special clubs that masqueraded as tea houses or debate gatherings while they served alcohol to informed and invited “thirsty” patrons. These unique buildings were made with secret passages to hide and store alcohol in addition to escape passages for patrons who had to get out in a hurry when groups of officials raided the club. They even had secret buzzer or light systems to warn the people in the club from the front door where the officials would be charging.
The non-prohibited distilleries and breweries near the U.S. did not mind the restrictive laws in that country as American visitors to Mexico, the Caribbean, and some areas of Canada made their businesses flourish. Alcohol from those areas was also illegally imported or smuggled into the U.S. to make the drinks in those countries even more profitable as the creation of homemade liquor or beer in America was troublesome and often produced “crude” alcohol that only the desperate wanted to willingly drink.
Author: Brooke Windsor — Copyrighted © roadtickle.com