The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcoticsby Richard P. Davenport-Hines, R. P. Davenport-Hines
A startling account of the history of drug use. The Pursuit of Oblivion presents an often-ignored insight into the history of human need and addiction. Today the international trade in illicit drugs generates annually as much money as the oil industry, about $400 billion worldwide. In this elegant and uniquely comprehensive history of drugs and their role in society, award-winning historian Richard Davenport-Hines examines how licit medicines developed into the commodity of this huge illicit business.
Melding social, political, and cultural history, The Pursuit of Oblivion illustrates that intoxication is neither unnatural nor deviant, and it describes how for thousands of years human beings have taken substances to change their physical or emotional state. Davenport-Hines argues persuasively that drug use is a necessary part of human experience, recounting how many drugs that are controlled or prohibited nowadays were freely available until the early twentieth century.
Although intrepid seventeenth-century European explorers experimented with narcotics discovered in foreign lands, modern drug history was not firmly established until the nineteenth century. Innovative Victorian physicians, spurred on by the new availability of syringes and the discovery of new therapeutic substances, began to use morphine and other powerful medicines in the treatment of a wide range of diseases. Many patients became unwittingly dependent on the drugs that had been used to treat their physical or nervous ailments. Physicians, though, remained confident in the healing powers of new pharmaceuticals and many, including Sigmund Freud, enthusiastically endorsed the advent of cocaine.
In the twentieth century opiates, cocaine, and marijuana became increasingly associated with minorities, the lower classes, and deviant bohemians. Attitudes and policies were changed across the world by the U.S. anti-drug lobby's obsession with the total prohibition of recreational drugs. Fueled by class antagonisms, fear of crime, and naive idealism, the U.S. government took the global initiative in the drug wars, and behind the formidable Harry Anslinger launched a forceful -- but counterproductive -- prohibition policy to which the European powers gradually conformed. The last century has revealed that the War on Drugs, with its aim of unconditional surrender, is a war that cannot be won. Drug use can be dangerous and destructive, Davenport-Hines shows, but as long as it is sustained by an economic reward system made possible only by prohibition, it will remain gratifying to both suppliers and some users.
In its vivid depiction of the people and events that have shaped the history of narcotics, The Pursuit of Oblivion is a history of individual emotional extremes. Davenport-Hines tells the story of addicts and users across five centuries: monarchs, politicians, great writers and composers, exhausted laborers, pop stars, defiant schoolchildren, victims of the ghetto, and happy young people on a spree. Drawing on evidence from different continents and cultures, The Pursuit of Oblivion will force us to reconsider many of our views on a controversial subject of global importance.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1 AMER ED
- Product dimensions:
- 6.58(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.67(d)
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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.¿