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Books, Journals, New Media
November 16, 2005

Alcohol, History

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;294(19):2505-2506. doi:10.1001/jama.294.19.2505-b

Historians know much about the temperance movement and governmental policies of liquor control but relatively little about the medical profession’s responses to the problem of chronic drunkenness. Yet chronic drunkenness was rightly seen as a major social problem (associated with poverty, violence, and crime), and the claims of doctors to medical expertise over the issue challenged deeply rooted ideas about what we now call alcoholism. But, as Sarah Tracy writes, as national Prohibition “extinguished America’s collective memory of the early movement to medicalize alcoholism” (p 275), a new movement reinvented the wheel—in this case, the disease concept of alcoholism, a concept that has given way to today’s idea of “alcohol problems.” Alcoholism in America: From Reconstruction to Prohibition explores its subject not as a projection of current debates onto the past but as a work of history.