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Independent (UK) -"[This is an] informative, scholarly and dispassionately fascinating book. . . . Drawing on a wealth of recent research, Narcotic Culture explodes various myths surrounding the use of opium in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century China. Conventionally, and also according to Communist propaganda, the West (especially the beastly British) willfully debilitated the Chinese empire by turning its denizens into emaciated opium addicts, stripping it of huge quantities of hoarded silver in the process. When the Chinese objected, the British responded with a show of brute imperialist force.
Skillfully deploying historical and medical evidence, Narcotic Culture stands all this on its head. The British and their mercantile allies may actually have done the Chinese a favour. In an age when modern medicines were unavailable, opium became a near-universal, inexpensive panacea against the symptoms of dysentery, cholera, malaria and other endemic diseases. . . . Narcotic Culture teases out the complex relationship between tolerance and suppression. It needs to be read far outside the community of Sinologists whence it has emanated."