The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics

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Overview

A startling account of the history of drug abuse, this book forces us to reconsider many of our views on a controversial issue.
Spanning five centuries and several continents in a sweeping portrait of addiction, The Pursuit of Oblivion traces the history of the use and abuse of narcotics, revealing their subtle transformation from untested medicines to sources of idle pleasure and, relatively recently, to illegal substances. Richard Davenport-Hines, an eminent, prize-winning ...

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Overview

A startling account of the history of drug abuse, this book forces us to reconsider many of our views on a controversial issue.
Spanning five centuries and several continents in a sweeping portrait of addiction, The Pursuit of Oblivion traces the history of the use and abuse of narcotics, revealing their subtle transformation from untested medicines to sources of idle pleasure and, relatively recently, to illegal substances. Richard Davenport-Hines, an eminent, prize-winning historian, uncovers the centrality of drug abuse in our modern industrial society, from the drug habits of Charles Dickens and John F. Kennedy to today's $400 billion annual worldwide trade in illicit drugs (the same volume as the oil industry). A vivid portrayal of the people and events that have shaped the history of narcotics, The Pursuit of Oblivion reveals that, contrary to the assumption underlying current drug policies, our need to escape reality and our body's need for physical pleasure are both ineradicable aspects of our humanity, unchangeable by government initiative.

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Editorial Reviews

D.M. Fahey - Choice
“A good read: lively, anecdotal, and written with the reader in mind.”
Boston Phoenix
“Factually detailed and rich in anecdote.”
Virginia Quarterly Review
“Accomplished with authority and flair.”
Christine Keneally - The New York Times
“Highly absorbing...an extremely impressive work.”
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto - The Independent
“His book is a technical triumph: well researched, well-written, well presented. . . . Moreover, it is convincing.”
San Diego Union Tribune
“An impressively researched and exhaustive volume...[that] should be considered definitive.”
Boston Globe
“Pragmatic and persuasive, full of fascinating lore and intelligent interpretation... overwhelming evidence and penetrating analysis.”
Washington Post
“A stern and sustained history...first-rate scholarship...a powerful indictment of mostly failed policy.”
Phillip Knightley - Sunday Times [London]
“The most important study on this subject in years, perhaps ever.”
The Week
“America has exported bad drug policy since the Civil War, the book shows.”
Philip Jenkins
“[A] highly literate and readable account...an author who is thoroughly conversant with the international and intercontinental aspects of drug policy.”
James R. Kincaid
“An amazing, knock-your-socks-off book, argued with depth and cunning....A stunning and vital book.”
Roy Porter - Literary Review
“The best general account of the subject...thoroughly researched and expertly written.”
Choice - D.M. Fahey
“A good read: lively, anecdotal, and written with the reader in mind.”
The New York Times - Christine Keneally
“Highly absorbing...an extremely impressive work.”
The Independent - Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
“His book is a technical triumph: well researched, well-written, well presented. . . . Moreover, it is convincing.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“An impressively researched and exhaustive volume...[that] should be considered definitive.”
Sunday Times [London] - Phillip Knightley
“The most important study on this subject in years, perhaps ever.”
Literary Review - Roy Porter
“The best general account of the subject...thoroughly researched and expertly written.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393325454
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/19/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 586
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Davenport-Hines is the recipient of the Wolfson Prize for History and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He writes for the New York Times, TLS, Sunday Times, and The Independent. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2008

    ¿We can choose to survive by choosing to heal the wounded soul

    Carrie suffered from a recurring nightmare. It began when she was a child and tormented her off and on for many years. She feared her father. Her mother tried to control her every step, but shelacked motherly love for her. As a young woman, Carrie worked through her nightmare and discovered that she had been sexually abused as a very child. Escape From Oblivion is not an easy book to read. Carrie, the lead character, is the narrator. From the first page, my heart ached for Carrie. It is obvious throughout the book that her parents know the ¿secret.¿ The prevailing attitude seemed to be, ¿pretend it didn¿t happen and it will go away.¿ I found myself wanting an explanation. Why did this person do this to this child? I still do not understand. Perhaps that is the purpose of this book. Perhaps Toby Smith wants readers to know that there is no rhyme or reason. There is no logic. There are no answers. How can anyone harm a child? Escape From Oblivion definitely aroused my emotions. The beginning of the book caught my attention the ending of the book was excellent even though it left me with questions. Unfortunately, the middle of the book did not flow smoothly. There were a few rough spots. The cover of this book is beautifully done but does not depict what is inside. However, that did not detract from the strong message of this book. ¿What matters in life is an individual¿s response to reality¿¿ ¿We can choose to survive by choosing to heal the wounded soul, and being willing to face demons powerful enough to destroy.¿

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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