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From Prohibition to Administrative Regulation: The Battle for Liquor Control in Alberta, 1916 to 1939 Open Access


Other title
administrative law
Liquor control
Legal history
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Hamill, Sarah E. M.
Supervisor and department
Adams, Eric (Law)
Examining committee member and department
Swyripa, Frances (History and Classics)
Harris, Douglas (Law, University of British Columbia)
Lewans, Matthew (Law)
Law, John (Law)
Muir, James (History and Classics, and Law)
Faculty of Law

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation is a legal history of Alberta’s early twentieth-century battle to control liquor. During this period, Alberta, like a number of other jurisdictions both inside and outside of Canada, enacted some form of legislative liquor prohibition. When prohibition failed to control liquor, Alberta, in common with other jurisdictions which had experimented with prohibition, introduced government liquor sales. Typically this shift from prohibition to government liquor sales has been understood as a gradual liberalization of liquor sales. This dissertation argues, by contrast, that the end of prohibition in Alberta saw the introduction of more effective liquor controls. It shows that Alberta’s move from prohibition to government liquor sales did not represent a change in the underlying ideas and beliefs about liquor but a change in how those beliefs were to be enforced. Government liquor sales saw Alberta change from prosecuting liquor law violations to regulating access to liquor which better allowed for the kind of supervision over liquor consumption that prohibition aimed at. The introduction situates this dissertation in the existing studies of Canadian liquor boards, Canadian legal history, and histories of administrative bodies like the Alberta Liquor Control Board (ALCB). Chapter two provides the background to the emergence of Alberta’s 1916 to 1924 period of prohibition by examining the liquor controls of pre-prohibition Alberta and the emergence of the temperance movement in the province. Chapter three explores prohibition’s failure to deliver its promises of a law-abiding sober society. In particular it examines how the Liquor Act was actually enforced, or not enforced among Alberta’s population to show that the measure lacked the popular support it needed. Chapter four uses the example of the struggle to control prohibition’s medicinal exception to argue that Alberta came to see regulating access would be more effective than outright prohibition. The final two chapters explore the design and operation of Alberta’s post-prohibition system of liquor sales respectively. Chapter five demonstrates that the government established the ALCB for political and practical reasons while Chapter six shows how the post-prohibition system answered the failures of prohibition outlined in Chapter three.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Sarah E. Hamill, “Making the Law Work: Alberta’s Liquor Act and the Control of Medicinal Liquor from 1916 to 1924” (2012) 27:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 249-266

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