Smashing the Liquor Machine

A Global History of Prohibition

Oxford University Press, forthcoming

Mark Lawrence Schrad

  • Challenges conventional wisdom and maintains that everything you know about alcohol prohibition is wrong
  • Provides a new, global perspectives on alcohol prohibition, involving major figures in world history
  • Offers the alternate perspective that temperance was not reactionary, it was revolutionary
  • Takes minority and subaltern voices and actions seriously–both in the US and around the globe–including Frederick Douglass, F.E.W. Harper, Booker T. Washington, Little Turtle, Black Hawk, King Khama, and Gandhi
  • Includes primary source materials in 13 different languages–as well as archival materials from 95 different collections in 48 different archives in 10 countries across four continents


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

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 wave of prohibition laws that occurred around the same time. Schrad’s counterintuitive global history of prohibition looks at the anti-alcohol movement around the globe through the experiences of pro-temperance leaders like Thomas Masaryk, founder of Czechoslovakia, Vladimir Lenin, Leo Tolstoy, and anti-colonial activists in India. 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. By placing the temperance movement in a deep global context, he forces us to fundamentally rethink all that we think we know about the movement. Rather than a motley collection of puritanical American evangelicals, 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 central Europe to the Indian reservations of the American west.

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.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction-Everything You Know About Prohibition Is Wrong

Part I: The Continental Empires
Chapter 2: Two Tolstoys and a Lenin-Temperance and Prohibition in Russia
Chapter 3: The Temperance Internationale-Social Democrats Against the Liquor Machine in Sweden and Belgium
Chapter 4: Temperance, Liberalism, and Nationalism in the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires

Part II: The British Empire
Chapter 5: Temperance and Self-Determination in the British Isles
Chapter 6: Black Man’s Burden, White Man’s Liquor in Southern Africa
Chapter 7: Gandhi, Indian Nationalism, and Temperance Resistance Against the Raj
Chapter 8: The Dry Man of Europe-Ottoman Prohibition Against British Domination

Part III: The United States
Chapter 9: First Peoples, First Prohibitionists
Chapter 10: Liquor and the Ethnic Cleansing of North America
Chapter 11: “All Great Reforms Go Together”-Temperance and Abolitionism
Chapter 12: The Empire Club Strikes Back
Chapter 13: A Tale of Two Franceses-Temperance and Suffragism in the United States
Chapter 14: The Progressive Soul of American Prohibition
Chapter 15: Prohibition Against American Imperialism
Chapter 16: A People’s History of American Prohibition
Chapter 17: Conclusion-Where Did We Go Wrong?

Author Information

Mark Lawrence Schrad is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. He is the author of The Political Power of Bad Ideas: Networks, Institutions, and the Global Prohibition Wave, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2010. His most recent book: Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State (2014) has gone through two editions and has been translated into Polish, Slovak, Lithuanian, and Chinese.