Poppy tears, opium, heroin, fentanyl: humankind has been in thrall to the “Milk of Paradise” for millennia. The latex of papaver somniferum is a bringer of sleep, of pleasurable lethargy, of relief from pain—and hugely addictive. A commodity without rival, it is renewable, easy to extract, transport, and refine, and subject to an insatiable global demand.
No other substance in the world is as simple to produce or as profitable. It is the basis of a gargantuan industry built upon a shady underworld, but ultimately it is an agricultural product that lives many lives before it reaches the branded blister packet, the intravenous drip, or the scorched and filthy spoon. Many of us will end our lives dependent on it.
In Milk of Paradise, acclaimed cultural historian Lucy Inglis takes readers on an epic journey from ancient Mesopotamia to modern America and Afghanistan, from Sanskrit to pop, from poppy tears to smack, from morphine to today’s synthetic opiates. It is a tale of addiction, trade, crime, sex, war, literature, medicine, and, above all, money. And, as this ambitious, wide-ranging, and compelling account vividly shows, the history of opium is our history and it speaks to us of who we are.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
Part 1 Ópion, afyuny opium
1 The Ancient World 3
2 The Islamic Golden Age to the Renaissance 26
3 The Silver Triangle and the Creation of Hong Kong 70
Part 2 In the Arms of Morpheus
4 The Romantics Meet Modern Science 115
5 The China Crisis 163
6 The American Disease 203
Part 3 Heroin
7 A New Addiction, Prohibition and the Rise of the Gangster 233
8 From the Somme to Saigon 276
9 Afghanistan 301
10 Heroin Chic, HIV and Generation Oxy 330