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Winner of the 2021 William H. Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine.
“Nature gives us opium poppies and Cannabis sativa; culture turns them into overprescribed opioids and overcriminalized dime bags. In his important new book, Benjamin Breen argues that all decisions about intoxicants are judgments about cultural difference, with roots in the early modern imperialism that spun many drugs into global circulation in the first place. The Age of Intoxication is a lively, edifying, wholly convincing book.” — Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University, author of Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit
“The Age of Intoxication is a fascinating, important, and evocative look at early modern ‘drugs’—widely redefined—and their roles in European expansion, medicine, pharmacy, and culture. Benjamin Breen has a striking historical range, tying together histories of the Portuguese and British empires, of the Americas, of Africa, and of South Asia. Combining archival and conceptual depth, the book reveals a connected world of unsung, often subaltern actors. Breen strongly suggests that contemporary distinctions between ‘illicit’ and ‘licit’ drug cultures are rooted in this crucial era of global encounters.” — Paul Gootenberg, Stony Brook University, author of Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug
“Innovative, smart, accessible, and a pleasure to read, The Age of Intoxication is the first history of drugs as cultural products. In Benjamin Breen’s hands, this history contains as many lessons about society as it does about modern science.” — James Sweet, University of Wisconsin, Madison, author of Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World.
“The Age of Intoxication is an incisive, vividly recounted analysis of two vast yet interwoven imperial histories, using individual life stories, plant itineraries, medical recipes, and mercantile networks to tell the stories of ‘failed’ drugs we do not normally include alongside more ‘successful’ commodities such as chocolate, coffee, and tobacco. In engaging prose and humorous asides, from Portuguese Angola to the wilds of Brazil, Java, and beyond, Benjamin Breen takes us on a colorful historical trip through the mind-altering passageways of the early modern world, leaving no stone (or hallucinogenic mushroom) unturned.” — Neil Safier, The John Carter Brown Library, author of Measuring the New World
“The Age of Intoxication shows how greater attention to the ambiguities of drugs and their history significantly enriches our understanding of many key features of modernity including colonialism, globalization science, medicine, commerce, and consumption. Benjamin Breen makes a strong and impassioned case for why early modern history is relevant to current discussions and public debates regarding drugs in society and the global drug trade.” — Matthew Crawford, Kent State University, author of The Andean Wonder Drug