Fletcher Dobyns, The Amazing Story of Repeal:
An Exposé of the Power of Propaganda (NY: Willett Clarke, 1940)
Dobyns' work is based around two arguments: that repeal of Prohibition
was bought by the AAPA's wealthy backers who wanted to reduce their
taxation, and that repeal came at a permanent and terrible cost to American
democracy and public health. Dobyns was an ardent "dry" and
an fervent New Dealer, and his book marks the beginning of a historiography
that treated repeal as a plot rather than as a genuine mass movement.
David E. Kyvig, Repealing National Prohibition
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979)
David Kyvig is the pre-eminent historian of anti-prohibition, and this
book was the first corrective to the Dobyns-inspired historiography
that saw the Repeal movement as little more than a Du Pont conspiracy.
Kyvig, on the other hand, argued forcefully for repeal in general and
the AAPA in particular to be seen as a genuine political and social
movement that represented a triumph not of plutocrats but huge majorities
of voters who had concluded that national Prohibition was a dismal failure.
David E. Kyvig (Ed.), Law, Alcohol and Order:
Perspectives on National Prohibition (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,
This collection of essays includes works that explore the Constitutional
and legal implications of the Eighteenth Amendment, and an excellent
piece by Clement Vose on "Repeal as a Political Achievement."
It also includes a historiographical survey by Mark Edward Lender: "The
Historian and Repeal: A Survey of the Literature and Research Opportunities,"
which, despite its age, is still useful.
George M. Wolfskill, Revolt of the Conservatives: A History
of the American Liberty League, 1934-1940 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
Wolfskill's work was the only significant treatment of the American
Liberty League until my After Wilson appeared thirty years later. Very
much part of the New Deal historiographical tradition, Wolfskill portrayed
the League as a rich man's club which did its best to derail the New
Deal's policies designed to save rather than destroy capitalism. Wolfskill
denied the Liberty League any genuine ideological conviction, instead
portraying it very much along the lines of Dobyns' hatchet job on the
Douglas B. Craig, After Wilson: The Struggle
for the Democratic Party, 1920-1934 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1992)
My book outlines in detail the ideological, political and personal connections
between the AAPA, the conservative Democrats of the 1920s and the American
Liberty League. The arguments in this piece are a summary of that research
and its conclusions. It is also a refutation of Wolfskill's main arguments
about the League.
David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The
American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (NY: Oxford University
Kennedy's work, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1999, is
the best known of recent surveys of the New Deal and World War II periods.
It is a magisterial study full of deft portraits of the major players
and excellent descriptions of New Deal legislation and its impact. Freedom
from Fear is also one of a very few works to integrate the Depression
and World War II years into a single work. As my overview suggests,
however, Kennedy has largely repeated the New Deal's denigration of
FDR's conservative critics and their ideological concerns.