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The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition
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The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  242 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews

"Rorabaugh has written a well thought out and intriguing social history of America's great alcoholic binge that occurred between 1790 and 1830, what he terms 'a key formative period' in our history....A pioneering work that illuminates a part of our heritage that can no longer be neglected in future studies of America's social fabric.

A bold and frequently illuminating att

Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 17th 1981 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published November 1st 1979)
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Geoff Sebesta
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books of a quality that only comes along once or twice a year. Easily one of the most perceptive works of social history I've ever read, in a way that is both ambitious and precise.

Rorabaugh has clearly found one of the main threads to American history, and it's one that we all laugh at or ignore so we missed. Apparently Americans drank more from 1790 to 1840 than they ever have before or since, and the author sets out to explain why. He does a pretty good job on such an ama
Dec 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is an interesting read. One review put it best, "Scholarly and entertaining...The author succeeds in using one category of our material culture--drinking--as a window on the whole society. What we see is sometimes amusing and sometimes appalling..." The first chapter (a nation of drunkards) is very entertaining and the second and third wane a bit. Yet in the fourth (Whiskey feed) it picks back up as the author begins to delve into the root of the drinking problem for early Americans (C ...more
Sandra Hernandez
Apr 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this in my first year of ollege, bad idea on behalf of the professor. I remember feeling justified in heavy drinking. This book is a great read and a token of history people like to deny. Drink up America, that's been our past time longer than baseball.
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
A look at why Americans drank so much in the early years of the country, this book delves into economic, social and psychological reasons. Here's one of the economic factors, for farmers isolated in the interior of the country:

"To market their surplus grain more profitably, western farmers turned to distilling. Whiskey could be shipped to eastern markets through New Orleans or overland. A man could make money sending his whiskey overland by pack animal because distillation so reduced the bulk of
Lissa Notreallywolf
This is part of my American history inquiries into the role alcohol has played in the American economy, a closer fit than Albion's Seed and Smuggler Nation, the novel by David Liss, The Whiskey Rebellion. American children learn about the Boston Tea Party, a protest against taxation by the Brits, somewhere in middle school where they also learn about the triangle of trade between America, Africa and the Caribbean. But they rarely learn about our founders engagement in smuggling, nor so they unde ...more
Overall good but I have some reservations about his psychological generalizations later in the book.
Mike Prochot
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: americana
Ineresting book. Scholarly if a bit dated writing style (1979 first publish date). Rorabaugh takes a few leaps to get to some of his conclusions, but he does go out of his way to explain his reasoning.

As luck would have it, late last year, I watched a History Channel program hosted by Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame which dramatized much of the information in this book - "How Booze Built America". Like it or not, whiskey played a huge part in the opening of the west in the 1800's. Likewise, whil
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was assigned this during a history course in college. It was interesting to see America's affair with alcohol mapped out so thoroughly. It's one of the amazing things about studying history, you come to realize there are actions you take and beliefs you possess which were influenced by events long before you were born.

The Evangelical assault on alcohol has little credibility in the modern world, but even less so when you realize those beliefs were sparked by social, not religious, issues. T
Oct 11, 2009 rated it liked it
it was a good book. well researched, slightly dated. though that is the downfall of something being written 30 years ago. there wasn't much on race/ethnicity, nor gender. i am interested in how the second awakening transformed a "low motivated" society into a "highly motivated" society. sort of touched on, but not really. that sort of deviates away from thesis and such. but i guess it was necessary to bring it back to the general discussion of history. i know alcohol is cool and all, but no one ...more
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pot Heads
Recommended to David by: Christian Smith III
Do you like booze? Do you like local breweries? Do you like American history? Then this is the book for you! This will answer all those burning questions you've always had about why Americans drink so much and why teenagers think alcohol is so rad. It gives a look at the drinking habits of early Americans, why they made what they did and the resources they used in their respective regions, and the influences that were carried on from Europe. It even gives recipes! I really wish I'd kept this one ...more
Josh Liller
This was assigned reading for my Age of Jefferson & Jackson university class. It actually tied in pretty well with the major theme of the class: the major changes in American society during this era which were arguably more substantial than any other 50 year period in our history.

While I did find the book interesting and at times a little surprising, I thought the information could have been far better organized. The writing can also be a little dry (irony?).
Chad Lamb
I never knew that Americans drank so much in their early history. Interesting look at alcohol consumption and how our national drink changed from British rum to American corn whiskey. Neat information on how corn was much cheaper to ship by river in the form of whiskey than in solid form overland. I liked the discussion on how Americans' "fast food" habits didn't just begin in the 20th century but have always been with us. A great read.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was amped for the read, being a dime store historian and recovering alcoholic. I dove into the book like I formally dove into a long tall mug of frosty brew and all I got was the hangover! To the author's credit I did learn a bit about consumption habits in the U.S., but I was looking for it to morph into a grand and interesting point. To me, that never came, but I did abandond the imbibing tale after about 100 pages, it just didn't hold its flavor!
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this short work on drinking habits in post-Revolutionary War America. The historical facts were interesting and certainly not something you would generally learn about in a typical history survey class. Roragbaugh sought to explain the patterns of alcohol abuse, temperance and their outcomes toward the end, which began getting rather plodding and preachy. Overall, an interesting read.
Ian Zimmerman
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
A semi interesting book about how much Americans drank in the 1800s. Much more interesting is the fact that Russia in the current day drinks FAR more in terms of alcohol consumed per capita each year. They also have far more deaths by alcohol poisoning and diseases of the liver and brain related to alcohol than America ever did. Moldova is currently the alcoholic republic and makes America during it's worst year look like a bunch of teetotalers.
Alex Orr
Interesting book on the history of alcohol consumption in the early U.S. with creative speculations on the larger ramifications of drinking behavior and culture. My biggest complaint is that the writing is a bit dry (no pun intended) and the book seems to stretch out a bit in order to make a somewhat narrow topic into something more worthy of a full-length book.
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Overall a good review of the sociological reasons for drinking from colonial times to pre-prohibition. It is limited a bit by the progressivism common in the 70s, and it gets a bit preachy near the end. Overall, a good study of an overlooked topic.
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone curious about different rarely told aspects of American history.
I took a class from this author when I was an undergraduate at the University of Washington in Seattle in the 1980s. I was a History major and still new in my sobriety. It was fascinating to see the role of alcohol in electioneering in early American politics.
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: school, history
I was excited to read this book, and while it was true there were some very interesting parts, mostly it dragged on and I didn't find it half as entertaining as I had hoped. My classmates felt the same way as ewll.
Dan Scott
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One of the best American History books ever written! How the early days of the USA were blighted by a population that was almost permanently trollied, and explains some of the early moves to temperance and prohibition.
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good explanation of the drinking culture in frontier America. Rorabaugh offers some interesting theories about excessive drinking and the rise of temperance unions and the functions that both served in American life and culture.
Aug 03, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction, history
OMG, Caltech has a copy of this... in the basement storage!
Warhammer Grantham
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Lot of interesting contet and information, written in not such an engaging style and blatant assumptions by the author. Still, a lot of information worth knowing.
Jul 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
A fun quick read on the rowdier side of life in Colonial America - cheers!
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
It was okay - very informative, but if you're not really interested in the alcoholic traditions of our forefathers, it can be a slow read.
Maggie McCormack
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2013
Illuminating view of how alcohol is deeply embedded into American politics, economics, and social structure. Lots of facts and figures. Really handy reference and piece of history.
John Rivera
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
There's a lot of conjecture in this book, especially in the final capture, but it's still an incredibly fun book to sit with for an afternoon.
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on how alcohol was woven into the fabric of American culture almost from the beginning.
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, sociology
An interesting read. Lots of parallels there between the present time period and the shift that occurred in American society during the Second Great Awakening/temperance movement craze.
Amy Clifton
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Outdated, but fascinating stuff.
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Professor at the University of Washington.
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