Alcoholic Republic By William Rorabaugh Essay

Alcoholic Republic By William Rorabaugh Essay

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Most people point to wars, Presidents or the economy when asked to describe the history of the United States, but what about alcohol. Social history in general has always taken a back seat to political and economic history, mostly because many aspects of social history are not exactly bright spots from the past. Alcohol, for example, is actually a much bigger aspect of our history than one may expect. As a matter of fact, early America was centered around drinking as a kind of social event. William Rorabaugh’s book Alcoholic Republic outlines how prevalent drinking really was during the years after the Revolutionary War. Rorabaugh argues that post-colonial Americans should be considered alcoholics. However, the evidence Rorabaugh uses in the appendix to support his argument lacks the credibility and strength to completely support his thesis. The lack of a negative connotation around drinking during the 1800’s created a culture that drank excessively, even more than most would think.
When Rorabaugh wrote The Alcoholic Republic in 1979, political history was society’s main focus. The purpose of his book was to inform society about an important time in American and do so in a completely different style. Rorabaugh writes The Alcoholic Republic from the perspective of a social historian which was relatively new for the time. He states that, “American historians traditionally have focused upon political events, especially upon such obvious turning points as the Revolution and Civil War, with the consequence that life during the years between those wars has often been ignored.” Over time, society has ignored many aspects of history that are considered negative simply because they think if they do not give attention to the sub...


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...ic illuminates just how prevalent drinking was in the early years of the United States. William Rorabaugh does a good job of shining a light on a part of our history that many people are completely unaware of. His choice to write the book from the social history view provides a refreshing view of the times compared to the usual historical perspective. Rorabaugh uses many anecdotes to immerse his reader in first hand accounts during the very period he is writing about. Where he ultimately falls short is in his statistics. He admits that finding a single source that can provide accurate data from the early 1800’s is nearly impossible and proceeds to make his best effort at providing the most accurate statistics he can accumulate. How much Americans drank in the early 1800’s is hard to quantify, but one thing is for certain; they definitely drank their fair share.

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