Editor’s Note: At the 2017 American Historical Association in Denver, several historians with relevant research interests participated in a roundtable discussion, “What Historians Wish People Knew about Licit and Illicit Drugs.” Keeping with the spirit of the title, Points is delighted to publish some of the panelists’ opening remarks in a temporary new series over the coming weeks. Scott Taylor, associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky, contributed the fourth installment. Be sure to check out part III by William Rorabaugh.
What do I wish people knew about the history of drugs?
As the early modernist on this panel, the main point I want to make today is that the patterns of our thinking and behavior around drugs and alcohol run deep – what we see today we also saw 200 and 400 years ago. Briefly, I’d like to show you what the early modern history of drugs can tell us about two trends today: marijuana legalization and the new opiate epidemic.