The Points Interview — Edgar-André Montigny

Editor’s Note:  Edgar-André Montigny’s edited volume, The Real Dope: Social, Legal, and Historial Perspectives on the Regulation of Drugs in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2011) takes the spotlight today.

The Real Dope1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender would understand.

The Real Dope is a collection of scholarly articles exploring how the government and society in general have dealt with various drugs, from alcohol and tobacco to ecstasy and LSD. The articles introduce us to 19th-century moral reformers, 1920s flappers, downtown Vancouver heroin addicts, psychology professors, hippies, glue-sniffing high school students, ravers, post-war government officials and senators, all interacting in some way with intoxicating substances through using, studying or regulating them.

2.  What do you think a bunch of alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about this book?

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The Points Interview — Dan Malleck

Editor’s note: Dan Malleck is a historian of medicine on the Community Health Sciences faculty at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and he keeps a blog on Canadian drug history. His interview with Points focuses on his recently published book, Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927-44 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).

1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Malleck - Try to Control Yourself cover picMy book looks at the introduction and regulation of public drinking from 1927-1944, after prohibition ended in the province of Ontario. It is focused on the relationship between the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the management of licensed drinking spaces, mostly hotel beverage rooms and clubs. It argues that the rules which seem so odd today, were part of a long process of negotiation and an attempt to build a viable public drinking system in a highly politically charged environment. 

2.  What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

The study might be called grass-roots, in that it examines the regulatory activities of the LCBO in six communities across the large province, from the border communities of Windsor (across from Detroit) and the Niagara region (across from Niagara Falls and Buffalo) to the provincial and national capitals (Toronto and Ottawa, respectively), a mixed rural and urban county with a large ethnic German population (Waterloo) and the large region in the northwest (Thunder Bay). It uses the inspection records and communication between the various levels of the LCBO (senior management and inspectors on the ground) and the beverage room operators, along with communications with politicians, interested social organizations and everyday people to develop a picture of the intricate process of regulating the politically charged issue of public drinking in large and diverse province. Historians may be intrigued or repulsed by the theoretical tools I use.

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The Points Interview — Herman Ronnenberg

Editor’s Note: “Dr. Beer,” Herman W. Ronnenberg, responds to Points’ questions re his latest book: Material Culture of Breweries (Left Coast Press, 2011).

1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Ronnenberg-bookThis book traces the development of beer brewing facilities, equipment and techniques in America from the first English brewing at the lost Roanoke Colony to the early 21st Century. It also covers the preparation of brewing materials and the containers used to deliver beer.  Many methods were used to make barley into malt, to grow and dry hops, to try to keep yeast pure.

2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

Many students of alcohol history know little about the manufacturing techniques or the science behind alcohol production.

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The Points Interview — An Vleugels

Editor’s Note:  An Vleugels graces Points today with a few words about her forthcoming book, Narratives of Drunkenness: Belgium, 1830-1914 (London: Pickering &
Chatto, 2013). An is a lecturer in the history of medicine, mind, and the body at Birkbeck, University of London.

1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Narratives of Drunkenness is about how drunkenness was understood in Belgium in the second half of the nineteenth century. Drinking alcohol was part of daily life. Workers needed it: they believed gin and beer gave them necessary strength to get on with their heavy work. They also drank a lot in the pub, especially when there was something to be celebrated. Wealthy people drank a lot too, enjoying wine with their copious meals and sweet liquors afterwards to help digestion. But at some point and for some people this drinking became too much.

Félicien Rops, “Le Gandin Ivre” (“The Drunken Dandy”) (1877)
Félicien Rops, “Le Gandin Ivre” (“The Drunken Dandy”) (1877)

When and for whom, however, was not straightforward. It depended on cultural categories such as gender and class. For example, getting drunk in public was not the same thing for a group of workers who had just received their paychecks on a Monday as it would be for a middle class lady who needed her medicinal pick-me-up to deal with the boredom of her role as angel of the house. I tried to trace different stories of drunkenness in different places, in the countryside, the cities and also in the Belgian colony of Congo. Whereas in the beginning of the nineteenth century excessive drinking was seen as a vice and a responsibility of the individual drinkers, by the end of the century excessive drinking was regarded as affecting the whole of the social body and it became understood as a “disease.”  The book traces how this shift came about in the complex and changing society that was Belgium in the second half of the 19th century.

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The Points Interview — Thomas B. Roberts

Editor’s Note: Tom Roberts’  The Psychedelic Future of the Mind: How Entheogens are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values is due out this month from Inner Traditions-Bear & Co. in Rochester, Vermont.

roberts-cover-21.  Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

This book looks forward, not backward. Experiences beget ideas, and The Psychedelic Future of the Mind is an exploration of some ideas psychedelics engender.  Based upon a collection of pieces of scientific research, case studies, anecdotes, and other information about psychedelics, this book asks, “When all these pieces are assembled, what do they tell us about what it means to be a human, about our minds, and about the future?”

The first sentences of Psychedelic Mind’s introduction pretty well nail down the book’s perspective. Early books on the psychedelic experience reported on some fascinating events and curious people. Newer ones describe the burgeoning field of psychedelic psychotherapy or offer accounts of neurotransmitters and synapses. Meantime, the river of autobiographical trip reports flows constantly onward. When collected and organized, the nuggets of information hidden in these sources provide clues to the human mind and how it might be developed. They hint at our social future, including in relation to education and business. They prompt new scholarly fields of endeavor, offering new insights into such diverse territories of investigation as the study of cognition and intelligence, of values and religion, of immune system strength, and of our conception of death. They stimulate new perspectives on film criticism, history, and philosophy.

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The Points Interview — Michael E. Staub

Editor’s Note:  Michael E. Staub’s  Madness is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948-1980 (University of Chicago Press, 2011) is bedecked with a number of favorable comments at its Amazon storewindow site.  Staub’s previously authored books include an oral history, titled Love My Rifle More than You, about a woman soldier who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.   The author suggested this work might also interest drug and alcohol historians. 

  1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

It would depend on how old this hypothetical bartender was. Is she old enough to remember the 1960s? Let’s assume that she is. Then I’d ask her to remember her reading of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Verge of Time or seeing Alan Bates in King of Hearts or listening to Arlo Guthrie’s riff in “Alice’s Restaurant,” where he discusses how he evaded the draft not because he yelled at the military psychiatrist that he wanted to “kill, kill, kill” but because he’d been arrested for littering. (Admittedly, this is a pretty cultured bartender I am concocting, but it’s my bartender and I’ll imagine who I want to.) So I’d tell the bartender how the 1960s are routinely remembered today for all kinds of things like hippies, Che Guervara, Tricky Dick, Neil Armstrong, Ho Chi Minh, Black Power, and SDS, among others. But what almost always gets left out of the history books is how much critical and popular attention in the 1960s and 1970s was lavished on issues relating to madness and the asylum. And I’d say that explorations into madness often became a means to address a host of other political and social concerns, ranging from the dysfunction of the nuclear family to the devastations of militarism to the problems of gender and race relations to the failures of the educational system. As one social psychologist put it in the early 1970s, and I am paraphrasing here, this was an era in US history when many Americans felt that the entire country had gone crazy, and the question for many was how to maintain their sanity in an increasingly insane society. That’s what my book is about.  

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Points Interview — Frank Priestley

Editor’s Note:  British beer brewer, Frank Priestley, in this engaging author’s interview, tells us a little about his new book, The Brewer’s Tale:  Memoirs of a Master Brewer (Merlin Unwin Books, 2010). 

1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

After leaving school, I started work in a brewery almost by accident.  Of the three jobs available to me, the brewery seemed the least objectionable.  However, I very quickly realised how very lucky I was to be working there.  It was like joining an extended family.  There was a wonderful atmosphere of friendship and co-operation.  Of course, in those days, all the breweries that I worked in were ‘wet’.  That is, a beer allowance was available to the men who wanted it – a couple of pints a shift.  Some men managed to drink more and some drank less.  The work was hard but the job always got finished.  And then there were the characters – The Irishman on the loading bay who, however busy they were, would say, “When the good Lord made time, He made plenty of it.”  And Wee Jock in the cask shed, who was from Glasgow and no-one could understand his accent.  And Big Jock from The Isles whose cap rotated round his head, depending on how much he had had to drink.  There were many such characters, very many, and when I was made redundant after twenty years service, I missed them grievously.  I never found another job in a brewery but consoled myself by studying the history of the public house (which will be the subject of my next book).  I find the practical research very rewarding.  However, I still think back to those days in the breweries, “where, between those precious pints, there was conversation and songs, friendship and jokes, music and laughter and such magic that sober men could never dream of.” 

2.  What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

The history of the brewing industry forms a significant part of this book.

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The Points Interview — Ian Tyrrell

Editor’s Note:  Australian Americanist, Ian Tyrrell, the last president of the Alcohol & Temperance History Group and the first president of the newly renamed and reconstituted Alcohol & Drugs History Society, shares a few reflections on his recent book, Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (Princeton University Press, 2010).

1. Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

My book is about late 19th century U.S. missionaries and moral reformers who wished to change the world not by turning everybody into Americans, but by Christianizing it and ridding it of drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and other “sins.” But in the process, these people were changed, and the movements they led were changed. The experience of trying to change the world influenced reformers and missionary supporters back in the United States, creating a strong sense of the need for moral reform at home, and for the idea of a Christian nation achieved through exertion of state power.

Ultimately, I am showing how the world was, more than a century ago, already a very connected place with a United States that was surprisingly affected by overseas influences and engaged in exerting moral influence abroad. My American story is of a nation newly linked as part of a worldwide web of communications.

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