Contributed by Scott Haine, University of Maryland University College..

The ADHS at the AHA annual meeting in Atlanta January 2016 hosted a highly fruitful panel, “Alcohol and Drugs History: Accomplishments and Prospects,” that was an outgrowth and continuation of the provocative  Plenary session, The Future of Alcohol and Drugs History: Perspectives from the Class of ’79 to the Present, ”at the 8th Biennial Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green OH, USA, June 18-21, 2015).

The AHA panel had an audience of around thirty and helped produce the two ADHS panels for this coming years AHA annual meeting in Denver (January 5-8, 2017).  Here are the panels as they will appear in the AHA program with dates and times.

A Question of Intent: Alcoholic Insanity, Violence, and the Law in 19th-Century America

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Colorado Convention Center, Room 302

Co-Sponsor(s): Coordinating Council for Women in History

Chair: Howard I. Kushner, University of California, San Diego

Unintended Consequences: Delirium Tremens as a Defense to Murder
Michele Rotunda, Union County College

Much Like a Lunatic: The 1860 Pardon of William A. Choice and the Debate around His Alcohol Use, Head Injury, and the Murder He Committed
Leah Richier, University of Georgia

Not Quite Suicide: The Inebriated Self-Destruction of John Michael in Late 19th-Century St. Louis
Sarah Lirley McCune, University of Missouri–Columbia

Comment: Howard I. Kushner, University of California, San Diego


Approaching Prohibition’s Centennial: Roundtable Discussion: Lisa McGirr’s The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Colorado Convention Center, Room 302

Chair: Scott C. Martin, Bowling Green State University

Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Joseph F. Spillane, University of Florida
Heather Thompson, University of Michigan

Comment: Lisa McGirr, Harvard University


While the first panel integrates medicine, drink, and law, the second provides a roundtable discussion concerning an influential new interpretation of Prohibition, on the eve of its centennial.  Both panels emerged from contacts and conversations at the AHA session in Atlanta.  (In particular invitations were extended to the audience of the roundtable to submit panel proposals for the 2017 AHA annual meeting.)  Bill Rorabaugh especially recommended the roundtable.  This was a logical suggestion given his critique of recent prohibition historiography (below) at the Atlanta panel.  An audience member participating in her first ADHS at the AHA panel, Sarah McClure—University of Missouri at Columbia—organized the first panel for the upcoming Denver meeting.  Through Sarah’s efforts and my attendance at an AHA meeting for Affiliate organizations, the ADHS is increasingly networking with other affiliate organizations.  The Panel on Alcoholic Insanity, for example, will be cosponsored by the Coordinating Council for Women in History.  Our connection with the CCWH will be very fruitful for panels, panelists, and attendance at future AHA and ADHS conferences and should ensure gender is more fully covered.

Towards this same goal, the ADHS is co-sponsoring a panel on the main AHA program at Denver chaired by our past president and commentator at the Atlanta panel David Courtwright.  Here is the title and the participants of this panel.


CHAIR: ANTOINETTE BURTON (University of Illinois)


Eradicating “the scourge of drink“ and the “the unpardonable sin of illegitimate sexual enjoyment”: M.K. Gandhi as anti-vice crusader

JESSICA R. PLILEY (Texas State University):

A Moral Quarantine: The FBI’s White Slave Division, 1910 – 1917

ROBERT KRAMM-MASAOKA (Hanyang University):

“Hey, GI, Want Pretty Flower Girl?” Venereal Disease, Sanitation, and Geopolitics in U.S.-Occupied Japan and Korea, 1945 – 1948

COMMENTATOR: DAVID T. COURTWRIGHT (University of North Florida)


Turning now to the panel at Atlanta: it was not as expansive in terms of either geography, gender, or the future of the organization as was the plenary roundtable at Bowling Green, but the panelists went deeper into the history of the journal, Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (SHAD), recent historiography on prohibition, and the growing global reach of the society in terms of both substances and methodologies.

AHA Panel

Friday, January 8, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Alcohol and Drugs History Society

Alcohol and Drugs History: Accomplishments and Prospects

Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Grand Hall D

Chair: William J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington Seattle

Panel: Scott C. Martin, Bowling Green State University

Isaac Campos, University of Cincinnati

  1. Scott Haine, University of Maryland University College

Jon Miller, University of Akron

Tabetha Ewing, Bard College

Comment: David T. Courtwright, University of North Florida

Bowling Green Plenary Session

1:45-3:15 PLENARY SESSION 8.

The Future of Alcohol and Drugs History: Perspectives from the Class of ’79 to the Present 206 BTSU (Theater)

Panelists: Charles Ambler, University of Texas, El Paso

Cynthia Belaskie, York University

Isaac Campos, University of Cincinnati

David Courtwright, University of North Florida

  1. Scott Haine, University of Maryland, University College

William J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington



As you see, Charles Ambler and Cynthia Belaskie could not attend and share their perspectives, respectively, on Africa and gender.  Tabetha Ewing, a student of 18th century Parisian café life and contributor to upcoming A cultural History of Alcohol (1750 to 1850) with Bloomsbury Press covering gender and alcohol, was scheduled to be on the AHA panel but sadly should could not be present.

Scott Martin was the first panelist at Atlanta.  This recent president of the ADHS, and wide ranging and prolific scholar on leisure, temperance, gender, the market revolution and consumption in 19th century America.  The biennial conferences (that have become increasingly international in scope) have brought stability and continuity to the organization and the continued growth of SHAD and the Points blog have provided a unifying focus for scholars.  The expanded framework that includes all drugs and the study of addiction has expanded the scope of the history of repression, from prohibition to the war on drugs, and at same time has integrated drugs and alcohol with other major areas of historical study: gender, nation, state development, and thus broadened the focus from social history to institutional analysis.  It is also key to explore the link with licit drugs such as tobacco and place the history of alcohol and other drugs into the history of food, sex, and gambling.  Prospect for future is bright due to increasing international scope and participation combined with cross disciplinary fertilization and growing engagement with the hard science, world history, and policy debates.

Isaac Compos, at the history department of the University of Cincinnati and author of highly regarded Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014), followed.  He elaborated on his points at Bowling Green, arguing that Alcohol and drugs in the organizations title should be changed simply to drugs.  The current distinction between alcohol and drugs presents a false dichotomy of licit, legal and relatively harmless alcoholic drinks, versus dangerous drugs from marijuana to cocaine and the hallucinogens. As historians he recommends we should be accurate and renounce this dichotomy based on this hypocrisy that insulates alcohol as good (when actually it is the most destructive) while criminalizing other drugs (that arel less harmful.  The dichotomy Isaac argued produced the war on drugs.

The key methodological shift, Compos argues, which historians should undertake is to historicize and globalize the study of all drugs.   This would overcome fetishization and mythologization of some drugs that can produce a “placebo text” that sets up expectations that result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Compos references Richard de Grandpara’s The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World’s Most Troubled Drug Culture, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007.)  For example marijuana was seen as drop out drug in 1960s America, the same drug was viewed as stimulating hard work in Jamaica and India in previous centuries.  Or when the media depicts opiate users as the living dead scholars should show some are able to be  fully functioning.  Smashing such stereotypes with empirical data from different cultures, eras, or a wider demographic overcome the simplistic images that produced the war on drugs.  This transformation in attitude and regulation may be much more possible now as the end of the war on drugs may be in sight and as marijuana becomes legal.

Compos concludes on an optimistic note for the ADHS too.  Prospects for field have never brighter because it is increasingly a global discipline and is longer Anglo-centric and with a broader scholarly cohort that utilizes the extraordinary power of digital research to isolate and comprehend the massive data on regulation and repression will become increasingly self-sustaining.  Scholars are no longer beholden to a few pioneers but can broaden the field by exploring both drugs and regulatory systems across time and space that should be SHAD’s true goal.

I cast with envious reflection on Isaac’s point about the growing ease of doing quantitative history since I had spent months in the very early 1980s entering date manually.  (Admittedly even then quantitative date collection was improving but I saw the full benefit of this only after completing most of my research.)  In the fall of 1976 as I started graduate school, social history reigned supreme and the great question about café and bar life, as opposed to discourses upon it, was who drank?  Finding out this vital point would cut through the images and stereotypes about 19th and early 20th century France, the focus of my research on café life, to discovers who went to these famous and infamous spaces.  My main guide was Michael Maurras’s then recent essay “Social Drinking in Belle Epoque Journal of Social History (Vol. 7, No. 2, Winter, 1974, pp. 115-141)  By the time I arrived in Paris in 1980 I found that the judicial and notarial arhcives offered rich detail, both quantitative and qualitative, not only on those arrested for various infraction related to drinking but also sociability (discovered in the rough quarter of the Parisian population who selected a café owner to witness their wedding (in marriage contact).  In essence the artisans and Paris (those essentially who had fought on the barricades across the 19th century revolution through to the Commune (1871) dominated arrests records especially for being drunk and insulting the police, while white collar clerks were especially prominent among those choosing a café owner to witness their marriage.  In short, fears of social disorder rather than public health explain the arrest statics for public drunkenness whereas the data of marriage contracts revealed the central role café owners played among not only the traditional Parisian artisanal class but also the emerging world of white-collar work.

When Jon Miller took over as editor of the society’s journal in 2000, he solicited a valuable collection of reflective essays on the nature of research in the field.  I characterized the café as a topic for all seasons because I was finding that my own evolving work on café life fit with the shift from social to cultural history between the 1970s and the 1990s. My recent and current work now focuses on the twentieth century and the relationship between modern war, political polarization, demographics, urban renewal, and the astonishing flourishing of avant-garde cultural movements in cafes through the 1960s.  Nevertheless, by the 1980s the number of cafes had fallen dramatically from their all time high during Popular Front (1938) and this informal institution was increasingly viewed through the lens of nostalgia more than dread.

Jon Miller, alas, could not be present, so Bill Rorabaugh read his talk.  Jon Miller is professor of English and American literature at the University at Akron.  Between 1999 and 2000, he served as Managing Editor of The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and from 2000 to 2006, he edited The Social History of Alcohol Review and its transformation into The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs.  Currently he is director of the University of Akron Press.  He has edited and provided an introduction to one of the classic temperance novels of the nineteenth century, T. S. Arthur’s Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and What I Saw There.  (Acton, MA: Copley, 2002).

Along with David Fahey, he edited an encyclopedia on the history of alcohol and drugs in North America for ABC-CLIO.

When Jon took over editorship of SHAD from myself, his theory for the continued expansion and professioinalization of the journal was direct and to the point.  If we build it, they will come.   He concentrated especially on peer reviews which are vital for achievement of tenure and promotion and redesigned it as a print journal as he had done earlier with the Walt Whitman Review.   Another master stroke was getting financial assistance from the Hazelden Foundation for publication.  Thus in 2006 Jon was able to ensure smooth transition to our current editor, Dan Malleck at his institution Brock University, Ontario, Canada.

Jon then reflected upon the nature of scholarly communication in a rapidly changing scholarly media environment and how SHAD could be flourish in this new environment.  The Society needs is a single website, organizing and displaying its publications such as the Daily Register, the Points blog, the journal, and a range of other related publications. SHAD should follow the lead, again, of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review that is now a leader in the field of digital humanities and its companion online site The Walt Whitman Archive that is now the best platform for free and open distribution of scholarship.  To achieve these goals SHAD requires an institutional repository and relationship with an integrated publishing service provider.   He notes that nearly all North American research universities now are developing repositories.  With strong editorial direction SHAD could publish online peer reviewed articles immediately in a digital first PDF formal that could be repacked in larger files with minimal labor.   Articles cold be published as soon as they come in by a continuous feed  and could be efficiently and quickly printed would be highly attractive to scholars needing quick turn around for tenure or promotion.  In short here would be a means by which SHAD could became an ever more effective instrument for publishing and circulating research into alcohol and other drugs.

Former SHAD president and one of the most important and innovative of scholars in the history of alcohol and drugs, followed.   David Courtwright, author of Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America, exp. ed. (Harvard University Press, 2001. Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press, 2001) returned to the origins of the organization from the perspective of the class of 1979.  At the 1978 AHA annual meeting the only contact he had in this then field of virgin soil scholarship was with David Musto, (author of The American Disease The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control (Oxford University Press, 1st edition, 1973) at lunch.  Courwright reflected that if that restaurant in went up in smoke the field would be wiped out.  The ADHS in its first incarnation would form in the following year and scholars such as John Burnham, Chuck Ambler and Ian Tyrell would help build the discipline over the coming decades.  Courtwright wishes he had such a wide range of research and scholarship at the time he had finished his dissertation so that it would have been much more well rounded.

Turing to the ADHS today he views it as an organization that has been superb at making connections as see at recent conferences such as at Buffalo (2011) and Bowling Green (2015).   What started as a group of social scientists interested in the history of alcohol has expanded to include those working with illicit drugs and now licit prescription drugs.  He boldly suggest that other opportunities awaited as far as exploring the spectrum of use, abuse, and addiction as applied to a range of behaviors such as gambling and pornography and digital pastimes as well as to psychoactive substances.

     But he sees challenges ahead.  SHAD should not lose sight of the value of the Victorian vocabulary of vice.   Their perception that alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and other intoxicating substances possessed unique and specific effects on human society that were linked to other, non-drug vices such as prostitution and gambling is vital to consider.  Those who drank suffered impaired judgment, were more likely to fall prey to pimps and card sharps, etc. Moreover, vices like cigarettes were “gateways” to other sorts of vices like drinking. Vice, particularly urban vice, was a nefarious package deal, a sort of hydra-headed monster.  The reason why this Victorian viewpoint should not be dismissed is due to the path breaking historians incorporating neuroscience such as Dan Smail.  In such highly regarded recent works as On Deep History and the Brain (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2008) by Dan Smail alcohol and drugs are subsumed into a larger neuro-history of pleasure–a project for which Courtwright have some sympathy. But thinking of alcohol and drugs as a particularly potent subset of dopaminergic activities doesn’t eliminate the specificity and rationale of the field.

   There’s a deep question on this points and Courtwright believes William J. Rorabaugh, author of the recent American Hippies In the Cambridge Univeristy Press series on essential Histories, 2015) would recognize as a Sixties question: Ultimately, are we interested in the social history of a set of commodities, or are we interested in the social history of altered consciousness? If the emphasis falls on consciousness, then the logic of the enterprise is to expand beyond alcohol and drugs.


William J. Rorabaugh, author also of the classic

The Alcoholic Republic An American Tradition (Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press, 1979),  rounded out panel as he shift from chair to commentator on recent works on the history of prohibition (the topic of his next book in the Very Short Introduction Series for Oxford University Press). Logically on the centennial of “that nobel experiment” there is a raft of new books.   Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York: Scribner 2010)—the  accompanying text for Ken Burns’s documentary on Prohibition highlighted role of German-American brewers and war time patriotism tipping scales to this measure.  The oversights of the book included insufficient emphasis on the role of Canadian distillers and the fact that consumption did decline.   The German connection also prominent in Bryce Bauer Gentleman Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye Prohibition, and a Small Town in Cahoots (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014), an oral history of a predominantly German Catholic town in heavily wet Carrol County Iowa that eighty years after the end of prohibition was willing to talk about experience.  Michael Lerner’s Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City (Harvard: Harvard University Press (December 15, 2007) shows Jazz era’s foremost island was anything but.  We return to the role of German immigrants in We Are What We Drink: The Temperance Battle in Minnesota (Champagne Urban and London: University of Illinois Press, 2015) by Sabine Meyer. This German scholar explores the German saloonkeepers of St. Paul, MN.  With the rise of Progressivism this ethnic shopkeeping cohort broke from the state’s majority party, the Republicans, and during Prohibition became connected to the Chicago mob.  The essential asset of this study is a fine-grained study of the wet German language newspapers.  The political scientist Ann-Marie Szymanski, Pathways to Prohibition (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), compares the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union failure to pass statewide Prohibition in most states in the 1880s with the success of the Anti-Saloon League in doing so in the Progressive 1910s.  The WCTU stressed morality, while ASL employed sophisticated tactics and strategy, including the use of local option to gradually dry up a state before imposing a statewide ban.  This strategy originated in the South, and it suggested the later pattern for using gradual statewide Prohibition to enact national Prohibition.   Rorabaugh believes the most important new book is Lisa McGirr’s “panoramic synthesis” The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State  (New York: W. W. Norton, 2015)  This Harvard historian is especially strong on role of women even in anti saloon league era  when WCTU worked close with ASL.  She also highlights the importance of efforts in the South especially by Baptists and Methodists.   Here was an issue on which Southern Progressive Democrats could project a reformist image at a time when their stands on women’s suffrage, income tax, and labor unions was decidedly less so.  McGirr continues the focus German Americans noting they faced popular opprobrium after 1914 even before USA enter WWI.  Here was a means by which to project patriotism.  During the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan could project an image of legality as they focused on enforcing Prohibition in rural areas where local police often turned a blind eye.   McGirr concludes with Al Smith amazing failure, in the light of Lerner’s book, to carry New York City in the 1928 Presidential election.  She notes FDR would win the governorship in that same year with damp platform and four years later win the White House with appeal of repeal.


Audience questions then commenced. There was little in the way of rumination, as opposed to Bowling Green, on whether SHAD should refine its name to reflect the growing sentiment that alcohol is just another drug. Several concerned the relationship between state and society, whether in regard to taxation or prohibition. David Christian, the distinguished historian of Russia, who has written on the history of the country’s food and drink regulation and culture—Bread & Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia, with R.E. F. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) and Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation   (Oxford:  Clarendon Press,1990)–noted the pivotal role that alcohol taxes had played in the rise of modern states.  Discussion then turned on the disastrous consequences for the Russian Imperial Treasury during WWI of the prohibition of vodka, which had been central to state revenue.  Ironically, France during the Great War, this Russian measure was seen as ensuring Allied victory.  It is to be hoped that a future panel on alcohol, drugs, the state, and modern war may illuminate such questions.

Young scholars were a prominent part of the audience too and from their ranks one of panels for the 2017 AHA meeting in Denver developed.  Sarah McClure , at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Michelle Rotunda at Union County College at Cranford New Jersey, both came to get an historical overview of the field and learn about the new directions scholarship.  Sara was encouraged to develop a panel the result of which is “A Question of Intent: Alcoholic Insanity, Violence, and the Law in 19th-Century America.”  Sara made contact with Michelle who also joined the panel.    They both appreciated learning the historical context in which the key works emerged.    Sarah views SHAD’s turn to addiction as key for her work on suicide and alcoholism and is intrigued by the policy implication of research, especially in the light of the lessening of the once sharp dichotomy between alcohol and other drugs.   Sarah also met William J.  Rorabaugh who had invited her to be on a panel–The Sober and the Sodden: Alcohol, Gender, and Respectability in the Nineteenth-Century South– that he chaired this past summer at the ADHS conference in Illinois “I’ve been to Dwight” Transnational Perspectives on Addiction, Temperance and Treatment
 in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Dwight, Illinois; 14-17 July, 2016

Michelle Rotunda also took extensive notes, finding this panel the most useful of the conference especially given the heavy teaching load at a community college. She appreciated the literature review, the analysis of the alcohol-drug dichotomy, and the insights and recommendations of Jon Miller regarding the history and future of  SHAD.  Michelle felt the abundant amount of time for questions and answers made the audience to feel part of a wide community of scholars rather than just onlookers and feel more connect to academic networks.   This panel provided refinements for her paper at the Illinois conference: “A victim of intemperance” – The Drunkard’s Story.

Thus the Atlanta SHAD panel helped recruit new members and help lay the ground work for the conference this last summer.

[The Bowling Green conference also produced sessions under ADHS sponsorship presented at the Ohio Academy of History in April 2016. The sessions were organized by Steve Siff, Miami University]