Try to Control Yourself
324 pages, 6 x 9
4 line art images, 1 b&w photo, 2 charts, 6 tables
Release Date:01 Jan 2013
Release Date:19 Apr 2012
Release Date:19 Apr 2012

Try to Control Yourself

The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927-44

UBC Press

Countless authors, historians, journalists, and screenwriters have written about the prohibition era, an age of jazz and speakeasies, gangsters and bootleggers. But only a few have explored what happened when governments turned the taps back on.

In Try to Control Yourself, Dan Malleck shifts the focus to the province of Ontario after the repeal of the Ontario Temperance Act, an age when the government struggled to please both the “wets” and the “drys,” the latter a powerful lobby that continued to believe that alcohol consumption posed a terrible social danger. Did the Liquor Control Board of Ontario pander to temperance forces, or did it forge a new path? Malleck’s from-the-ground-up historical research of regulation in six diverse communities – Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, Essex County, Waterloo County, and Thunder Bay district – reveals that the Board placated anti-liquor groups while at the same time seeking to define and promote manageable drinking spaces. Its goal was to provide more appealing places in which to consume alcohol than the many illegal drinking dens or “blind pigs,” places where citizens would learn to follow the rules of proper drinking and foster self-control.

The regulation of liquor consumption was a remarkable bureaucratic balancing act between temperance and its detractors but equally between governance and its ideal drinker.

This book will appeal to students and scholars of Canadian history, health studies, and social policy.


  • 2013, Winner - Gourmand Best Health and Drinks Book (Canada - English), Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
  • 2013, Winner - Best Health and Drinks Book (World), Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
  • 2013, Winner - CLIO Prize for Ontario, Canadian Historical Association
‘Try to Control Yourself is both an absorbing account of alcohol regulation in post-prohibition Ontario and a significant study of the relationship between bureaucracy, surveillance, and social order. Its meticulous research brings to life the work of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and demonstrates how understanding the intricate realities of administrative activity can enhance critical debates about power and control. This detailed work shows how cultural values are tied to practices of government and, in doing so, offers important lessons for alcohol policy today.’ James Nicholls, author of The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England
This well-written history provides a rich and nuanced analysis of how the Liquor Control Board of Ontario responded to a divisive political problem in post-prohibition Ontario: to promote orderly but legal public drinking. It offers a sophisticated theoretical interplay between Foucault's concept of biopower and Weber's work on bureaucratization, revealing a variety of actors – the LCBO, inspectors, police, politicians, licence holders, patrons, pressure groups, and even bootleggers – all enveloped in a web of regulation whose strands, while created by the state, were not completely controlled by it. Robert Campbell, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Capilano University and author of Sit Down and Drink Your Beer: Regulating Vancouver’s Beer Parlours, 1925-1954
Dan Malleck is an associate professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Brock University.

Introduction: The Emergence of Liquor Control Bureaucracy in Ontario

1 Liquor Control Bureaucracy and the Mechanisms of Governance

2 The Public Life of Liquor, 1927-34

3 Idealistic Form and Realistic Function: Restructuring Public Drinking Space

4 Hearing the Voices: Community Input and the Reshaping of Public Drinking Behaviour

5 “As a Result of Representations Made”: Clientelism and the (Dys)function of Patronage in the LCBO's Regulatory Activities

6 Restructuring Recreation in the Drinking Space

7 Women, Children, and the Family in the Public Drinking Space

8 “Their Medley of Tongues and Eternal Jangle”: Regulating the Racial and Ethnic Outsider

9 Public Drinking and the Challenges of War


Appendix: The Communities




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