Prohibition, American Cultural Expansion, and the New Hegemony in the 1920s: An Interpretation

  • Ian Tyrrell


In the 1920s American prohibitionists, through the World League against Alcoholism, sought to extend their war on liquor beyond the boundaries of the United States. Prohibitionists failed in their efforts due to anti-American sentiment, complex class and cultural opposition to prohibition, and negative reporting of the experiment with prohibition in the U.S. Nevertheless, restrictive anti-alcohol laws were introduced in a number of countries. Moreover, the efforts of American prohibitionists furthered the larger process of American cultural expansion by emphasizing achievements of the U.S. in economic modernization and technical advancement. This episode in American cultural expansion occurred with the support of antialcohol groups in foreign countries that embraced the message equating American reform with modernity. Prohibitionists abroad colluded in the process, thereby accepting a form of American cultural hegemony.