High Society explores the spectrum of mind-altering substances across the globe and throughout history. Beautifully illustrated with rarely seen material, this striking and rigorously researched book puts its controversial subject into the widest possible context.
Every society is a high society. Every day, people drink coffee on European terraces and kava in Pacific villages, sniff cocaine in American suburbs and petrol in Aborigine slums, chew betel nut in Indonesian markets and coca leaf on Andean mountainsides, swallow ecstasy tablets in the clubs of Amsterdam and opium pills in the deserts of Rajasthan, and smoke ya'aba in Thai nightclubs, and tobacco in every nation on earth.
Cultural historian Mike Jay paints vivid portraits of the roles that drugs play as medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols and trade goods. He traces the understanding of intoxicants from the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists to the present 'war on drugs', and reveals how the international trade in substances such as tobacco, tea and opium shaped the modern world.
'Straightforward and engaging storytelling and cool headed analysis of use of, and attitudes towards, mind-altering drugs … deserves high praise for rendering a complex, controversial topic with clarity and elegance. It’s also good looking … quite marvellous'
British Medical Journal
'Fascinating and highly recommended'