Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

John Barleycorn Must Die: The War against Drink in Arkansas

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

John Barleycorn Must Die: The War against Drink in Arkansas

Article excerpt

John Barleycorn Must Die: The War against Drink in Arkansas. By Ben F. Johnson III. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2005. Pp. x, 99. Foreword by Judge William R. Wilson, preface, illustrations, notes, index. $19.95.)

This slim volume takes its place on the shelf next to other histories of alcohol control in the states. All modern societies seek to control the marketing of alcoholic beverages and the behavior of drinkers. In the United States, such controls, except for the brief period of national prohibition, have occurred mostly at the state and local levels. Thus, a state history of this subject is appropriate.

John Barleycorn Must Die is much less than a full history, however, and it is also more than a study of alcohol control. It is an outgrowth of a museum exhibit at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock for which the author was guest curator. The nature of the book does not lend itself to full narrative analysis of its subject. Instead, Johnson promises only a "broad overview" and a "casual history" in offering the museum exhibit in printed form (p. ix). This result is pleasant and informative but falls far short of the penetrating insights presented by Norman H. Clark in The Dry Years: Prohibition and Social Change in Washington (1988) or Robert Bader in Prohibition in Kansas: A History (1986). …

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