From Roses and Indigo to Opium: The Enigma of Ghazipur

Editor’s Note: In this post, Dr Kawal Deep Kour shows the how the waning markets for rose attar and indigo positioned Ghazeepore, India, to take advantage of the emerging market for opium, and how attitudes towards production changed during the 19th century in response to the changing landscape of labor and colonialism.

Author: Kawal Deep Kour

Nestled within the orthogenetic city of Benaras, India, Ghazeepore (of the 19th century) was much like an entrepot or emporia without the spirit and brilliance of the former. Ghazeepore, developed independently though its attachment as a hinterland of Benaras, was valuable to the long-term growth under the British raj. But it was the accumulation of interconnected stories, as the social histories of roses, indigo and opium reveal, that facilitated the evolution of Ghazeepore as an influential city by the early 19th century.

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Some people like to shoot dope: Ideology and pragmatism in the film ‘Methadone: An American Way of Dealing’

Author: David Frank

People on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) are in a difficult position. I should know since I’ve been on it for close to 20 years. They are caught in the space between a program that helps them in a way that is primarily pragmatic – by providing access to a safe and consistent supply of opioids outside of the difficult and dangerous conditions created by prohibition/criminalization – and our culture’s need to frame everything drug related through the ideological narrative of “addiction” and “recovery.” In short, MMT enables criminalized drug users to decriminalize their opioid use, and yet, like the emperor who wears no clothes, it must publicly masquerade as a “treatment for addiction” so as to not disrupt the War on Drugs ideologies that require firm distinctions between “drug” and “medicine”; “addict” and “non-addict”. It’s no wonder that people end up a little confused.

Methadone: An American Way of Dealing captures these contradictions playing out in real time.

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The War on Drugs: From Book to Website

War on Drugs Project

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Dr. David Farber, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Modern U.S. History at the University of Kansas. He is the editor of the recently published, War on Drugs: A History (NYU Press, 2021).

Over the last 36-and-a-half years I have done what research-oriented history professors of my generation were supposed to do: I wrote books and published articles. What I did not do—until now—was produce a website. Defying the ageist canard about old dogs and new tricks—albeit admittedly in collaboration with my much younger colleagues Clark Terrill and Marjorie Galelli—I’m happy to report that the War on Drugs Project website is now live.

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“Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?”—Reflections on the Cannabis: Global Histories Workshop

Ackerman Title Card

Editor’s Notes: Today’s post by Eron Ackerman reflects on his participation in the “Global Drug Histories: Why and What’s Next?” workshop held jointly this past October at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy and the British Library. Dr. Ackerman recently completed his dissertation, “Cannabis and Colonialism in the British Caribbean, 1838–1938,” at Stony Brook University and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Albion College.

When Lucas Richert invited me to attend the joint US-UK meeting, “Global Histories of Drugs: Why and What’s Next?” at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy on October 6, I jumped at the chance—even if it meant having to cancel some mid-week classes. The meeting was inspired by the release of the new collection of essays Cannabis: Global Histories (MIT Press, 2021), which intersects so closely with my own work about the history of Caribbean ganja that I couldn’t miss it. The organizers used Zoom to link our group in Madison to a larger group of book contributors and guest panelists “across the pond” at the British Library.

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Champagne and the Performance of Femininity in Victorian Britain

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Graham Harding, whose recent book, Champagne in Britian 1800–1914: How the British Transformed a French Luxury, was just published by Bloomsbury Academic.

In nineteenth century Britain, champagne was gendered feminine. Poems were written to “My Lady Champagne” that described it as “wayward, soft, luscious and tender” [1]. Women went to fancy dress balls dressed as champagne bottles (the nearest male equivalent was to go as a bottle of Bass beer). The words used to describe champagne— “pretty,” “elegant,” “sparkling”—reflected a stereotypical Victorian view of femininity.

“Sparkling” is a key word here. It encapsulated what the Victorian novelist Amelia Barr called “the social friskiness—the afternoon wit—the great fun” that Society (my capital “S”) demanded of women, particularly young women [2].

Harding Title Card
Left: Woman wearing a champagne bottle dress in 1902; and a photo of a vintage champagne bottle dress. Images courtesy of the Fashion Museum of Bath.

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Documenting the Evolution of Hospital and Clinical Pharmacy: Remembering the Career of Joseph Oddis

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by William A. Zellmer, AIHP Advisor for Pharmacy Outreach and the President of Pharmacy Foresight Consulting.

A recently published tribute to Joseph A. Oddis (1928–2021), an extraordinary organizational leader in pharmacy, offers historical insights into the transformation of pharmacist education and pharmacy practice in the United States during the last four decades of the twentieth century. The entire August 15, 2021, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP) (which is freely accessible at the preceding link) was devoted to the memory of Oddis, the first full-time Chief Executive Officer (1960–1997) of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), who died on February 24, 2021 (note: the downloadable .pdf version of this issue may be easier to read than the web version).

Joseph Oddis in 1984
Joseph Oddis at the Headquarters of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in 1984. Image courtesy of AIHP Kremers Reference Files.

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The Performative Aspect of Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines’ War on Drugs

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by guest blogger Katrina Pineda, a junior undergraduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) pursuing a degree in Science, Technology, and Society. She is the co-president of the Philippine American League, RPI’s cultural Filipino club. This post was submitted at the end of Filipino American History Month (October) and in time for Araw ng mga Patay—Day of the Dead in the Philippines—in remembrance of those who have died in President Duterte’s war on drugs.

"La Pieta" photo by Raffy Lerma
“La Pieta” photograph by Raffy Lerma: Jennilyn Olayres holds her partner Michael Siaron, 30, a pedicab driver who was shot and killed by unidentified anti-drug motorcycle riding vigilantes along Pasay Rotonda, EDSA on July 23, 2016. According to Olayres, Siaron was not a drug pusher.

Pusher ako. Wag tularan.

“I am a [drug] pusher.  Don’t do what I did.”

The crudely drawn message on a cardboard sign beside a man just killed in the street is posed as a warning to the living. The sign appeared next to the body of Michael Siaron, a 30-year-old pedicab driver killed by a vigilante group in 2016. A famous photo of his bereaved partner cradling his body echoes “The Pieta,” also known as “The Lamentation of Christ.”

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The Lincoln Family and Pennyroyal: Re-Evaluating Medicines in the Archive and Beyond

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Emma Verstraete is a doctoral candidate in Archaeology at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Why would a person buy this medicine? What were they trying to treat? As a historical archaeologist who focuses on consumer medicine, I’m faced with this question more frequently than many historians of medicine. Archaeologists rarely have access to journals, letters, or other primary sources that mention specific products present in an archaeological assemblage—such as the one pictured below from my own research about the material culture of consumerism. Historians of business and economics who research drugstores or pharmacies, too, are frequently faced with daybooks that list the product being purchased and by whom, but without specific context or rationale for the purchase.

archaeological assemblage
A photo of a typical artifact assemblage from a an urban archaeological site. Dating to the 1870s–80s, this assemblage featured over 50 medicine bottles, including vials from a medical field kit and 15 embossed bottles indicating specific drugstores or proprietary medicines. Photo courtesy of Fever River Research, a Cultural Resource Management firm that has conducted extensive research in the Springfield, Illinois, area.

Despite differences in research methods and artifact access, archaeologists and historians frequently confront such uncertainties relating to medicine use and disease treatment. Such subjects are also often considered taboo and are therefore sometimes not as extensively discussed in the written record. These circumstances place a burden of speculation on the researcher that demands acknowledgement of personal bias and, importantly, the biases of information recorded in archives.

Many cultures and communities, for example, rely on oral traditions, which can sometimes limit a researcher’s ability to find archival sources that deal with specific folk traditions or beliefs. Historically, who has been allowed—or not been allowed—to write down knowledge can also influence possible interpretations. And the places researchers go to verify and fact check information can also have limitations. Books and manuscripts accessioned by archives or libraries and institutional collecting policies, themselves, often reflect the history and the values of the majority culture at the expense of other groups [1]. Current efforts to decolonize and diversify the archive are working to improve these issues, but such efforts are long processes.

As a small case study, this post will discuss how such biases and silences in archival sources may have led a popular 1984 article about Abraham Lincoln to arrive at incomplete and (unintentionally) biased conclusions about the Lincoln household’s use of pennyroyal, a common plant used in nineteenth-century pharmaceutical preparations, folk medicine, and herbals.

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