International drug cartels and the pharmaceutical industry are two of the most powerful and culturally influential enterprises in the world today. How did they begin?

The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade will be available in late 2019 from the University of Pennsylvania Press. You can pre-order it here

This book argue that the emergence in the seventeenth century of a category of goods known as “drugs” – and the explosive growth in popularity of those goods not just in Europe, but throughout the world – was not simply a symptom of the expansion of European trading companies, colonies, and scientific networks. It was constitutive of them. From the sickly sweet tobacco that helped finance the Atlantic slave trade to the intoxicating hashish that an East Indies merchants sold to the natural philosopher Robert Hooke in one of the earliest European coffeehouses, drugs have been entangled with both science and empire from the very beginning.

The figures central to the first part of the book are Lusophone soldiers, missionaries, merchants and slaves. The second part builds upon the legacy of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance of 1662, arguing that the drive to amass drug-related knowledge and materials during the Enlightenment forged new links between British natural philosophers and go-betweens in the Iberian world. The resulting source base allows for an expansive but thematically focused reading of drugs in the early modern world, drawing upon everything from Portuguese Inquisition interrogations of African healers to manuals of alchemical medicine, and from the letters of natural philosophers to paintings of African and indigenous American drug-harvesters in missionary’s reports and the margins of maps.

18th century apothecary
This incredibly detailed painting of a vast drug warehouse and apothecary workshop appears to be an anonymous work from 1740s or 1750s Paris. It is currently housed at the University R. Descartes in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences in Paris, France. Some favorite details include the moose skull chandelier, the multitude of dangling pineapples and shells, the distillation apparatus at lower right, and the rare appearance of an early modern woman smoking tobacco in a public space.

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