While we are no longer developing Digital Mysteries and Thinking Kit, we are leaving our website up for those of you interested in the ideas behind the Apps.


Alcohol Prohibition in the USA

alcohol prohibition app

Audience: KS4

Subject: History

Topic: US History, Law, Society, Economy, Politics

Question: Why was Prohibition felt to be necessary in The USA in 1919, and then repealed in 1933?

Author: Elizabeth Doyle





This mystery explores the reasons for the introduction of Prohibition in the USA in 1919, and its eventual repeal. It is intended to support studies of the 14-16 age range – including controlled assessment – of the USA in the inter-war years, and raise themes including social reform, economic and political pressure and the question of Federal Government as opposed to State legislation and local practice and circumstances for the more able student.

It is important that students understand why two such opposing arguments relating to the question of the legality of alcohol could be so compelling to their respective supporters, and have a clear understanding of the circumstances in which this debate had taken place. Once the historical context and specific conditions in which the law was passed are understood, the more able may then be in a stronger position to relate the issues to the present day, and current debates about the legalisation of banned substances.

There are 14 slips of information in the basic level of the mystery (the app starts by default in ‘medium’, but this can be changed at any time in the settings). There are 22 slips on 'medium'; the additional slips require more able students to consider the ‘grey areas’ around the issue, i.e. the failure of the authorities to enforce the law, and the complicity of ordinary Americans who continued to consume alcohol, and ‘turn a blind eye’ to illegality. Also, the public’s fondness for alcohol could not be ignored. On the ‘hard’ setting, there are 26 slips (an extra four). The most able students should be able to link the tensions and issues raised by the attempt to stop the consumption of alcohol to other debates about the state control of illegal substances. They are also designed to raise the possibility of tax revenue for the government, and set this against the question of the health and welfare of the population.

While students complete this task, they are propelled into this important era in history. It supports their studies of this time and helps them learn about, and discuss, various themes.

Depending on level of knowledge or ability, the task can be suited to different students.