The French temperance movement against prohibitions (1914 – 1930s)


Victoria Afanasyeva

After a Master 1 work on "Alcohol and Alcoholism in Kaluga Province (1894-1929)", presented at the French University College in Moscow, Victoria Afanasyeva was awarded a scholarship and joined the Master of History of Contemporary Western Societies in Paris 1 University, where she defended a Master's thesis on women in the fight against alcoholism in France (1893-1914). Since 2015, she continues her research on the history of women engaged in the French anti-alcoholism (1835-2013) as part of a thesis, under the direction of Myriam Tsikounas. The defense is planned for spring 2020.

For anti-alcohol activists in the United States, the prohibition introduced in 1919 is the culmination of a long struggle of nearly a century. For activists in other countries, this acquis becomes an example or a counter-example: some greet this drastic measure as the surest way to deliver the population of alcoholism, others already presage problems of fraud and counterfeits. Critics are numerous, especially in view of the failure of the Russian prohibition (1914) and the reservation against the Bratt system applied in Sweden (1917).

My paper proposes to analyze the attitude of the French temperance movement towards this wave of legislative measures in the world (Schrad, 2010), from articles published in the general and specialized press. Taking into account the Russian and Swedish situations gives a better understanding of the disapproval expressed after the vote of the Volstead Act by the National League against Alcoholism, the main French association, advocating temperance and moderation in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, the small associations, practicing total abstinence, are admirative of the prohibition policy imposed on the United States, and hope, of course, that the French government imitates the experiment. Finally, in the 1920s, some journalists, who feared that the prohibitionist wave would reach France, published articles denouncing the activity of the entire anti-alcoholic movement, without distinguishing between the abstinent and the temperate.

This post is also available in French