• Posted by Califia Suntree on September 22nd, 2010, 4:58 PM

    HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire promises to spin a juicy yarn about Prohibition and the rise of Atlantic City. While I found the premiere underwhelming, I find the ’20s and Prohibition an endlessly intriguing chapter in American history, so I’m going to give it a chance to rope me in…Also it was filmed in my former stomping grounds (Greenpoint, Brooklyn), so I feel a certain sense of kinship to the show. I also intend to pick up Daniel Okrent’s book about Prohibition, Last Call, since truth is stranger (and to me, usually more interesting) than fiction. On that note, this Common Review article, “Empire and Alcohol: A Brief Survey,” on the intersection of booze and power (in the U.S. but also Russia and Cuba) as well as the history of “intolerant temperance” in America, is illuminating. It includes a succinct overview of how we became a country where “sixteen-year-olds are trusted to handle firearms and drive, and eighteen-year-olds are trusted to vote and to die in the service of their country,” but college students must sneak beer. (Poor quality beer at that, if it’s domestic and mass-produced—also a result of Prohibition’s 13-year set-back.) The article, by Ian Williams, also goes into vodka’s role in funding the czarist government (and prohibition’s role in toppling it), and Bacardi’s role in Fidel Castro’s victory. Fun fact: The Boston tea party was actually largely inspired by Brits’ decision to tax molasses—used by the colonists to make rum. It poses the question: Would the “Tea Party” of today more accurately be called the Party Party?

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