The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol

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Temple University Press, 2004 - History - 336 pages
Thousands of years ago, before Christ or Buddha or Muhammad...before the Roman Empire rose or the Colossus of Rhodes fell, Eric Burns writes, "people in Asia Minor were drinking beer." So begins an account as entertaining as it is extensive, of alcohol's journey through worldand, more important, Americanhistory. In The Spirits of America, Burns relates that drinking was "the first national pastime," and shows how it shaped American politics and culture from the earliest colonial days. He details the transformation of alcohol from virtue to vice and back again, how it was thought of as both scourge and medicine. He tells us how "the great American thirst" developed over the centuries, and how reform movements and laws (some of which, Burn s says, were "comic masterpieces of the legislator's art") sprang up to combat it. Burns brings back to life such vivid characters as Carrie Nation and other crusaders against drink. He informs us that, in the final analysis, Prohibition, the culmination of the reformers' quest, had as much to do with politics and economics and geography as it did with spirituous beverage. Filled with the famous, the infamous, and the undeservedly anonymous, The Spirits of America is a masterpiece of the historian's art. It will stand as a classic chroniclewitty, perceptive, and comprehensiveof how this country was created by and continues to be shaped by its everchanging relationship to the cocktail shaker and the keg.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cogman - LibraryThing

100 proof. As delightful as a refreshing beer, as rich as a complex wine, stimulating as Scotch, Burbon or Wiskey, as satisfying as a warmed Brandy or Cognac. This is like a well stocked bar and as cozy as a neighborhood pub. This is a relaxing hoot of a read. Read full review

The spirits of America: a social history of alcohol

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The host of Fox News Channel's Fox News Watch, Burns (The Joy of Books; Broadcast Blues) presents an enjoyable and informative examination of the role of alcoholic beverages in American society ... Read full review


The First National Pastime
The General and the Doctor
The Father of Prohibition and Other Kinfolk
The Crusaders and their Crusades
The Importance of Being Frank
The WheelerDealer and His Men
The Blues and How They Played
Executive Softness
The Hummingbird Beats the Odds
Strange Bedfellows
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Page 13 - If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be contented and think it no fault ; For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.
Page 28 - All the better, for our jurisdiction extends over so large a territory that the doctrine of chances makes it certain that it must be raining somewhere.

About the author (2004)

Eric Burns is the host of "Fox News Watch" on the Fox News Channel. He was named by the Washington Journalism Review as one of the best writers in the history of broadcast journalism. His other books include Broadcast Blues and The Joy of Books.

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