Liquor and the Liberal State
408 pages, 6 x 9
4 b&w photos, 1 map, 7 tables
Release Date:15 Apr 2022

Liquor and the Liberal State

Drink and Order before Prohibition

UBC Press

Cultural pastime, profitable industry, or harmful influence on the nation? Liquor was a tricky issue for municipal, provincial, and federal governments after Confederation. Liquor and the Liberal State traces the takeover of liquor regulation by the Ontario provincial government in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Dan Malleck explores how notions of individual freedom, equality, and property rights were debated, challenged, and modified in response to an active prohibitionist movement and equally active liquor industry. While the liquor licensing regime helped build a vast patronage base for the governing Liberal Party, some believed it exceeded the constitutional authority of the province. The drink question became as political as it was moral – a key issue in the establishment of judicial definitions of provincial and federal rights, and, ultimately in the crafting of the modern state.

Liquor and the Liberal State demonstrates the challenges governments faced when dealing with the seemingly simple, but tremendously complicated, alcoholic beverage. This lively and meticulous work shows how commentators of all stripes fit the liquor question into a complex conception of liberalism, typically seeing either prohibition or excessive consumption of liquor as an infringement of personal liberty and a threat to the fundamental values of the nation.

Scholars, students, and general readers with an interest in the history of alcohol, Canadian social history, and health policy will all find this an intriguing and useful work.

This finely crafted book is sure to stand the test of time. It is a profound addition to ongoing discussions of drink and order in Canada before prohibition. Matthew J. Bellamy, author of Brewed in the North: A History of Labatt’s
Dan Malleck strides across the huge complexities of the history of alcohol regulation in Ontario with confidence, wit, and keen insight. There is no other book like this one in the field. Craig Heron, author of Booze in Canada: A History

Dan Malleck is a professor of health sciences at Brock University, where he also serves as director of the Centre for Canadian Studies. His publications include Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927–44, which won a Clio Prize for Ontario history, and When Good Drugs Go Bad: Opium, Medicine, and the Origins of Canada’s Drug Laws.

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