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High Society

Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture

Mike Jay

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A global history of intoxication, from the earliest archaeological evidence for the botanicals of the classical world to the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists and the modern 'war on drugs'

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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.

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'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'
Psychedelic News

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 24.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 192 pp

Illustrations: 157

Publication date: 5 March 2012

ISBN: 9780500289105

Contents List

CONTENTS A Universal Impulse High Societies • The Evolution of Drugs • Animal Intoxication • Drugs and Shamanism • Drugs and Culture • The Culture of Kava • The Culture of Betel • Drug Prohibitions • Drug Subcultures • The Cultures of Ecstasy From Apothecary to Laboratory What Is a Drug? • Drugs in Antiquity • Renaissance Herbals • Witches and Flying Ointments • The Invention of Laudanum • Linnaeus and the Enlightenment • The First Synthetic Drugs • Opium and the Romantics • The Club des Haschischins • Freud and Cocaine • Addiction and Drug Control • Mescaline{,} LSD and Beyond • Drugs of the Future The Drugs Trade Drugs of the New World • The Psychoactive Revolution • Tobacco in China{,} Tea in Europe • The Opium Wars • The Anti-Opium campaign • Temperance and Prohibition • The ‘War on Drugs’ • Epilogue: The Decline of Tobacco

About the Author

Mike Jay has written widely on the cultural history of science, medicine and the mind. His books include The Influencing Machine, The Story of James Tilly Matthews and his Confinement in Eighteenth-century Bedlam and High Society: Mind-altering Drugs in History and Culture. He reviews regularly for The London Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. This Way Madness Lies was written in conjunction with the exhibition 'Bedlam: the asylum and beyond', which he co-curated for the Wellcome Collection in London. He is a research affiliate of the Health Humanities Centre at University College London and a trustee of the Bethlem Art and History Collection.

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