The earliest story of prohibition of alcohol is linked to the legendary Xia Dynasty (traditionally dated ca. 2070 BC–ca. 1600 BC) in China. Yu the Great, the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty, prohibited alcohol throughout the kingdom. It was legalized again after his death, during the reign of his son Qi.
Some kind of limitation on alcohol trade can be seen in the Code of Hammurabi (ca.1772 BCE) specifically banning the selling of beer for money. It could only be bartered for barley: "If a beer seller do not receive barley as the price for beer, but if she receive money or make the beer a measure smaller than the barley measure received, they shall throw her into the water."
In the Western world, one of the great moral issues of the nineteenth century was slavery, but once that battle was won, social moralists turned to their next targets, one of which was prohibition. In the early twentieth century, much of the impetus for the prohibition movement in the Nordic countries and North America came from moralistic convictions of pietistic Protestants. Prohibition movements in the West coincided with the advent of women's suffrage, with newly empowered women as part of the political process strongly supporting policies that curbed alcohol consumption.
The first half of the 20th century saw periods of prohibition of alcoholic beverages in several countries:
After several years, prohibition failed in North America and elsewhere. Rum-running or bootlegging became widespread, and organized crime large took control of the distribution of alcohol. Distilleries and breweries in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally exported to the United States. Chicago became notorious as a haven for prohibition dodgers during the time known as the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition generally came to an end in the late 1920s or early 1930s in most of North America and Europe, although a few locations continued prohibition for many more years.