Prohibition is the illegality of the manufacturing, storage in barrels or bottles, transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of alcohol including alcoholic beverages, or a period of time during which such illegality was enforced.
The earliest records of prohibition of alcohol date to the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 BC–ca. 1600 BC) in China. Yu the Great, the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty, prohibited alcohol throughout the kingdom. It was legalized again after his death, during the reign of his son Qi. Another record was in the Code of Hammurabi (ca.1772 BCE) specifically banning the selling of beer for money. It could only be bartered for barley: “If a beer seller do not receive barley as the price for beer, but if she receive money or make the beer a measure smaller than the barley measure received, they shall throw her into the water.”
In the early twentieth century, much of the impetus for the prohibition movement in the Nordic countries and North America came from moralistic convictions of pietistic Protestants. Prohibition movements in the West coincided with the advent of women’s suffrage, with newly empowered women as part of the political process strongly supporting policies that curbed alcohol consumption.
The first half of the 20th century saw periods of prohibition of alcoholic beverages in several countries:
1907 to 1948 in Prince Edward Island, and for shorter periods in other provinces in Canada
1907 to 1992 in the Faroe Islands; limited private imports from Denmark were allowed from 1928
1914 to 1925 in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union
1915 to 1933 in Iceland (beer was still prohibited until 1989)
1916 to 1927 in Norway (fortified wine and beer were also prohibited from 1917 to 1923)
1919 in the Hungarian Soviet Republic, March 21 to August 1; called szesztilalom
1919 to 1932 in Finland (called kieltolaki, “ban law”)
1920 to 1933 in the United States
After several years, prohibition failed in North America and elsewhere. Rum-running became widespread and organized crime took control of the distribution of alcohol. Distilleries and breweries in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally exported to the United States. Chicago became notorious as a haven for prohibition dodgers during the time known as the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition generally came to an end in the late 1920s or early 1930s in most of North America and Europe, although a few locations continued prohibition for many more years.
In some countries where the dominant religion forbids the use of alcohol, the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited or restricted today. For example, in Saudi Arabia and Libya alcohol is banned; in Pakistan and Iran it is illegal with exceptions.
Main article: Prohibition in Canada
An official, but non-binding, federal referendum on prohibition was held in 1898. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier’s government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition, mindful of the strong antipathy in Quebec. As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century. The provinces repealed their prohibition laws, mostly during the 1920s.
Zapatista Communities often ban alcohol as part of a collective decision. This has been used by many villages as a way to decrease domestic violence and has generally been favored by women. However, this is not recognized by federal Mexican law as the Zapatista movement is strongly opposed by the federal government.
The sale and purchase of alcohol is prohibited on and the night before certain national holidays, such as Natalicio de Benito Juárez (birthdate of Benito Juárez) and Día de la Revolución, which are meant to be dry nationally. The same “dry law” applies to the days before presidential elections every six years.
Main article: Prohibition in the United States
This 1902 illustration from the Hawaiian Gazette shows the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s campaign against beer brewers. The “water cure” was a torture which was in the news because of its use in the Philippines.
Prohibition focused on the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages; however, exceptions were made for medicinal and religious uses. Alcohol consumption was never illegal under federal law. Nationwide Prohibition did not begin in the United States until January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The 18th amendment was ratified in 1919, and was repealed in December, 1933, with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.
Concern over excessive alcohol consumption began during the American colonial era, when fines were imposed for drunken behavior and for selling liquor without a license. In the eighteenth century, when drinking was a part of everyday American life, Protestant religious groups, especially the Methodists, and health reformers, including Benjamin Rush and others, urged Americans to curb their drinking habits for moral and health reasons. In particular, Benjamin Rush believed Americans were drinking hard spirits in excess, so he created “A Moral and Physical Thermometer,” displaying the progression of behaviors caused by the consumption of various alcohols. By the 1840s the temperance movement was actively encouraging individuals to reduce alcohol consumption. Music (a completely new genre) was composed and performed in support of the efforts, both in social contexts and in response to state legislation attempts to regulate alcohol. Many took a pledge of total abstinence (teetotalism) from drinking distilled liquor as well as beer and wine. Prohibition remained a major reform movement from the 1840s until the 1920s, when nationwide prohibition went into effect, and was supported by evangelical Protestant churches, especially the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Congregationalists. Kansas and Maine were early adopters of statewide prohibition. Following passage of the Maine law, Delaware, Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York, among others, soon passed statewide prohibition legislation; however, a number of these laws were overturned.
As temperance groups continued to promote prohibition, other groups opposed increased alcohol restrictions. For example, Chicago’s citizens fought against enforcing Sunday closings laws in the 1850s, which included mob violence. It was also during this time when patent medicines, many of which contained alcohol, gained popularity. During the American Civil War efforts at increasing federal revenue included imposition of taxes on liquor and beer. The liquor industry responded to the taxes by forming an industry lobby, the United States Brewers Association, that succeeded in reducing the tax rate on beer from $1 to 60 cents. The Women’s Crusade of 1873 and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874, “marked the formal entrance of women into the temperance movement.” It was also the first time that women had organized and acted together politically, using their influence to fight against the drunken culture of the time. Organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement would set the stage for women to organize and demand political action as a group with common interests and common goals. The WCTU and the Prohibition Party, organized in 1869, remained major players in the temperance movement until the early twentieth century, when the Anti-Saloon League, formed in 1895, emerged as the movement’s leader.
Between 1880 and 1890, although several states enacted local option laws that allowed counties or towns to go dry by referendum, only six states had statewide prohibition by state statute or constitutional amendment. The League, with the support of evangelical Protestant churches including the Episcopalians and Lutherans, and other Progressive-era reformers continued to press for prohibition legislation. Opposition to prohibition was strong in America’s urban industrial centers, where a large, immigrant, working-class population generally opposed it, as did Jewish and Catholic religious groups. In the years leading up to World War I, nativism, American patriotism, distrust of immigrants, and anti-German sentiment became associated with the prohibition movement. Through the use of pressure politics on legislators, the League and other temperance reformers achieved the goal of nationwide prohibition by emphasizing the need to destroy the moral corruption of the saloons and the political power of the brewing industry, and to reduce domestic violence in the home. By 1913 nine states had stateside prohibition and thirty-one others had local option laws in effect, which included nearly fifty percent of the U.S. population. At that time the League and other reformers turned their efforts toward attaining a constitutional amendment and grassroots support for nationwide prohibition.
In December 1917, after two previous attempts had failed (one in 1913; the other in 1915), Congress approved a resolution to submit a constitutional amendment on nationwide prohibition to the states for ratification. The new constitutional amendment prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes”. On January 8, 1918, Mississippi became the first state to ratify the amendment, and on January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the thirty-sixth state to ratify it, assuring its passage into federal law. On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, which provided enabling legislation to implement the Eighteenth Amendment. When the National Prohibition Act was passed on October 28, 1919, thirty-three of the forty-eight states were already dry. Congress ratified the Eighteenth Amendment on January 16, 1920, and nationwide prohibition began on January 17, 1920.
During the first years of Prohibition, the new federal law was enforced in regions such as the rural South and western states, where it had popular support; however, in large urban cities and in small industrial or mining towns, residents defied or ignored the law. The Ku Klux Klan was a major supporter of the Prohibition and once it was passed they helped with the enforcement of it. For example, in 1923, Klansmen traded pistol shots with bootleggers, burned down roadhouses, and whipped liquor sellers, and anybody else who broke the moral code. The Prohibition was effective in reducing per-capita consumption, and consumption remained lower for a quarter-century after Prohibition had been repealed. Sale of alcoholic beverages remained illegal during Prohibition, but alcoholic drinks were still available. Large quantities of alcohol were smuggled into the United States from Canada, over land, by sea routes along both ocean coasts, and through the Great Lakes. While the federal government cracked down on alcohol consumption on land within the United States, it was a different story along the U.S. coastlines, where vessels outside the 3-mile limit were exempt. In addition, home brewing was popular during Prohibition. Malt and hops stores popped up across the country and some former breweries turned to selling malt extract syrup, ostensibly for baking and beverage purposes.
Prohibition became increasingly unpopular during the Great Depression. Some believe that the demand for increased employment and tax revenues during this time brought an end to Prohibition. Others argue it was the result of the economic motivations of American businessmen as well as the stress and excesses of the era that kept it from surviving, even under optimal economic conditions.
Main article: Repeal of Prohibition in the United States
The repeal movement was initiated and financed by the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, who worked to elect Congressmen who agreed to support repeal. The group’s wealthy supporters included John D. Rockefeller, Jr., S. S. Kresge, and the Du Pont family, among others, who had abandoned the dry cause. Pauline Sabin, a wealthy Republican who founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), argued that Prohibition should be repealed because it made the United States a nation of hypocrites and undermined its respect for the rule of law. This hypocrisy and the fact that women had initially led the prohibition movement convinced Sabin to establish the WONPR. Their efforts eventually led to the repeal of prohibition.
Prescription form for medicinal liquor
When Sabin’s fellow Republicans would not support her efforts, she went to the Democrats, who switched their support of the dry cause to endorse repeal under the leadership of liberal politicians such as Fiorello La Guardia and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Sabin and her supporters emphasized that repeal would generate enormous sums of much-needed tax revenue, and weaken the base of organized crime.
Repeal of Prohibition was accomplished with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. Under its terms, states were allowed to set their own laws for the control of alcohol. Following repeal, public interest in an organized prohibition movement dwindled. However, it survived for a while in a few southern and border states. To this day, however, there are still counties and parishes within the US known as “dry”, where the sale of liquor (whiskey, wine) – not beer – is prohibited; several such municipalities have adopted liquor-by-the-drink, however in order to expand tax revenue.
Main article: Al Capone
Al Capone was the most notorious gangster of his generation. Born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York; Capone settled in Chicago to take over Johnny Torrio’s business dealing with outlawed liquor. Within three years, Capone had nearly 700 men at his disposal. As the profits came in, Capone acquired finesse—particularly in the management of politicians. By the middle of the decade, he had gained control of the suburb of Cicero, and had installed his own mayor. Capone’s rise to fame did not come without bloodshed. Rival gangs, such as the Gennas and the Aiellos, started wars with Capone, eventually leading to a rash of killings. In 1927, Capone and his gang were pulling in approximately $60 million per year—most of it from beer. Capone not only controlled the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies, but he also controlled the supply from Canada to Florida. Capone was imprisoned in 1929 for tax violations and died January 25, 1947, from a heart attack, pneumonia, and syphilis.
Revival of Prohibition
Although the Prohibition amendment was repealed, there are currently efforts underway to bring back Prohibition using a back door approach. Tactics include lowering the legal limit below what is necessary to keep unsafe drivers off the road, raising alcohol taxes, and limiting the time and places alcohol can be consumed. 
In Venezuela, twenty-one hours before every election, the government prohibits the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages throughout the national territory, including the restriction to all dealers, liquor stores, supermarkets, restaurants, wineries, pubs, bars, public entertainment, clubs and any establishment that markets alcoholic beverages. This is done to prevent violent alcohol induced confrontations because of the high political polarization. The same is done during the holy week as a measure to reduce the alarming rate of road traffic accidents during these holidays.