Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cunningham reviews Lerner, Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City

Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007) is reviewed for H-Urban by Patricia Cunningham. Hat tip. Cunningham writes that Dry Manhattan "is a long-awaited alternative to popular images of the Prohibition era. Rum runners, bootleggers, gangsters in Chicago, moonshine stills in rural states, and specially designed transport cars are not the focus of this work, even though some of them are featured." This book features instead:

the ordinary citizen harassed on the street for possibly concealing a hip-flask; the overwhelmed judge with an impossible caseload of criminal casual drinkers, waiters, and restaurant owners; the law enforcer tempted beyond typical possibilities by the corruption of his extended powers. There is a good chapter about women and their "pivotal and surprising role in the demise of the noble experiment" (p. 171)....
"Much greater in scope than a debate over alcohol consumption, the Prohibition era in New York turned out to be a time of confrontation over how citizens could be governed, the value placed on diverse cultures within a cosmopolitan arena, and the right to rebel against ... moral absolutism."

The full review is here.