Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Prohibition; United States public policy; Vice control; Temperance movement; Progressive era


Alcohol constitutes an integral part of societies across the world. This pattern can be seen in the United States where conflicts over alcohol’s place in the country have permeated the social landscape since the beginning of the nation. From colonial times to the modern day, society has viewed alcohol as a deplorable vice, an enjoyable indulgence, a rite of passage, an inherent freedom, and the reason for many of society’s woes. To better understand alcohol’s role in United States history, one needs to examine a key event and public policy that dealt with alcohol: Prohibition. Spanning from 1920 to 1933, historians have identified Prohibition as a well-meaning effort by temperance groups to regulate drinking in America. However, Prohibition failed due to the expansive nature of the law and the resistance by many citizens to this legislation. As a result, President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration discarded it as a failed experiment. However, like many historical topics, the truth is more complex and deserves to be analyzed in-depth. This analysis can be done by exploring the process that led to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and the 1920 Volstead Act, and why they failed. Nonetheless, despite the relative shortness of Prohibition, its effect on American society was substantial such as innovations in tactics for special interest groups, a shift in the cultural significance of drinking, and adding to the discussion of the federal and state governments’ role in the citizens’ lives. This essay demonstrates that, in some ways, Prohibition failed in its short term goals and partially succeeded in the long run.