Points Interview—Helena Barop, Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979

Editor’s Note: Today, we’re pleased to interview Dr. Helena Barop about her new book , Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—or Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. Dr. Barop recently received her PhD from the University of Freiburg.

Please tell readers a little but about yourself:

My name is Helena Barop, and in 2020 I received my PhD in history from the University of Freiburg. I am living in Freiburg with my husband and two little kids and working as a freelance publicist. Just a few weeks ago I published my dissertation as a book, titled Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—which roughly translates to Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. My book is based on research conducted in Washington, DC, New York City, and at the United Nations Archives in Vienna. As a student of American drug policy, I have been watching the field from the side lines with some intensity. Now that my book is out, I would like to introduce it to the drug history community—even though it’s in German.

Barop Title Card

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HOPP Interview—Mat Savelli, “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements” 

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the inaugural issue of AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP) (vol. 63, no. 1). Today we feature Mat Savelli, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society at McMaster University. Read his article here (open access until February 2022!) and consider joining AIHP to subscribe to HoPP.

Article Abstract for “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements”

In this article, we examine advertisements for psychoactive products sold in five different geo-political jurisdictions: Canada, Colombia, Yugoslavia, India, and Senegal. We compare products and marketing campaigns aimed at selling psychoactive substances to consumers in these places over the twentieth century.

Mat Savelli Interview Title Card
Left: Senegalese advertisement from December 24, 1960, issue of Dakar Matin. The ad proclaims that Kiravi Valpierre wine is the “Perfect Product of Progress.” Image featured in the article “Crafting Modernity via Psychoactivity Advertisements” in HoPP 63.1

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SHAD Interview—”Problem Substances: Temperance and the Control of Addictive Drugs in Nineteenth-Century Australia” with Matthew Allen

Editor’s Note: This is the third Points interview with authors from the Spring 2021 issue (vol. 35, no. 1) of ADHS’s journal Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, published by the University of Chicago Press. Today we feature Dr. Matthew Allen, a lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education at the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia. You can see his article here. Contact the University of Chicago Press to subscribe to the journal or request access to this article or any other article from SHAD’s history. 

SHAD Interview Matt Allen Title Card
Left: Esther Paterson, “Keep This Out: Prohibition, Poison Liquor and Drugs – Vote No, Thus,” (Melbourne: J.J. Liston, 1930). Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

Article Abstract

During the second half of the long Australian nineteenth century (c. 1840–1914), drugs were subjected to increasing government control in a process largely driven by the temperance movement. Temperance activism and its highly public campaign against alcohol were the key to a profound shift in the social imaginary of drugs—the common understanding of intoxicating substances—which were converted from symbols of individual deviance to the structural cause of social problems.

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Points Video Interview—Yan Liu, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to feature the first Points Video Interview today! SHAD co-Editor Dr. David Herzberg interviews Dr. Yan Liu about his new book, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China.

Points Interview Yan Liu

At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. In Healing with Poisons, Dr. Yan Liu explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful drugs to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. By recovering alternative modes of understanding wellness and the body’s interaction with potent drugs, this book cautions against arbitrary classifications and exemplifies the importance of paying attention to the technical, political, and cultural conditions in which drugs become truly meaningful.

In this interview conducted by David Herzberg, Dr. Liu discusses several topics from his book, including the crucial, but forgotten role of poisons in Chinese medicine during the medieval era, the misconceived dichotomy between Chinese and Western medicine, psychoactive drugs, and the close relationship between poison, witchcraft, and politics in medieval China.

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Points Interview: David Fahey and the History of ADHS

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Dr. David Fahey, a long-time member—and an unofficial resident historian—of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. Dr. Fahey is Professor Emeritus at Miami University and the author of several books about the history of alcohol and temperance.

David Fahey

Dr. Fahey, nice to get in touch with you! Members of the ADHS often get notices about new publications and conferences from you via the Daily Register. So how long have you been involved in the organization?

Historians often neglect the history of their own organizations. I will happily provide a few details.

The Alcohol and Temperance History Group (ATHG) was first created at an American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in December 1979. A US Government-funded conference about alcohol history was then held at Berkeley, California, in January 1984—which occasioned the restructuring of the ATHG; its first officers (Jack Blocker as first president); and first membership dues. I joined a few years later and took part in the formal organization after the big Berkeley conference. Early conferences of the ATHG were usually held in Canada where funding for conferences was more available than in the USA (Berkeley in 1984 was unique).

Things used to be very informal. There were very few of us. At various times I was President of the organization and Editor of the journal. At some point, I took the main responsibility for the Daily Register but with no title. In fact, several people got the right to post and very occasionally did. 

I agree that we should be paying attention to our own history! What should members know about the early days of the ADHS? Can you share any gems from the organization’s history? 

You can read the early versions of SHAD. Also see Alcohol in History: A Multidisciplinary Newsletter, Spring 1980. It provides a brief history.

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The Points Interview: Daniel J. Robinson

Points Interview Daniel RobinsonCard

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Daniel J. Robinson the author of Cigarette Nation: Business, Health, and Canadian Smokers, 1930–1975 from the Intoxicating Histories Series at McGill-Queen’s University Press edited by Virginia Berridge and Erika Dyck. Robinson is a historian and associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University in London, Ontario. He is currently researching historical tobacco use in Indigenous Canada and cigarette smoking and vaping among North American youths.

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

For most of the last century, bars like this were filled with cigarette smokers. So, too, were restaurants, bowling alleys, physician waiting rooms, workplaces, and countless other public and private spaces. In the early 1950s, six in ten Canadians regularly smoked cigarettes—which were touted for enhancing sociability, psychological well-being, and productivity. By then, smoking had become a key marker of self-identity and social belonging. So, my book asks, how did these smokers react to news in the 1950s that cigarettes caused lung cancer? How did the tobacco industry respond? Some smokers, mostly older men, managed to quit, but the majority carried on, and lots of new smokers joined their ranks. For decades, smokers downplayed tobacco-cancer science and viewed their own mode of smoking as less risky. The industry promoted this thinking with a strategy of “Hope and Doubt.” “Hope” came in the form of health reassurance marketing, seen, for example, with light and mild brands which smokers believed were safer. The industry promoted “doubt” with a long-running disinformation campaign that attacked the medical science linking cigarettes to cancer and other serious diseases.

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Points Interview: David Farber

Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Professor David Farber, the author of CRACK: Rock Cocaine, Street Capitalism, and the Decade of Greed (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Farber is the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor at University of Kansas, and is a historian of modern America. His previous books include Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist; Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America’s First Encounter with Radical Islam and Chicago ’68.

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

I’ve written a history of the crack cocaine years. In the 1980s and 1990s, crack crews took over swathes of poor, disproportionately Black urban neighborhoods. They set up 24/7 open-air drug markets. In those communities, suffering from the ravages of de-industrialization and the pain of Reagan-era disinvestment, crack use became epidemic.

Across the United States, a moral panic took root. White, middle-class Americans feared that crack was coming for them, too. That moral panic contributed to draconian drug laws that accelerated the rise of mass incarceration in the United States.

Meanwhile, crack kingpins got rich (at least for a while), Gangsta Rap artists celebrated their exploits, and mainstream American society found one more reason to harden its heart against its poorest and most alienated members. The Crack Years changed America.

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The Points Interview: David Black

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with David Black, the author of Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD (independently published, 2020). Black lives in London and is an independent journalist and author. His previous books include The Philosophical Roots of Anti-Capitalism: Essays on History, Culture, and Dialectical Thought and 1839: The Chartist Insurrection.

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Psychedelic Tricksters: A True Secret History of LSD tells the story of various people who made that, beginning with the discovery of LSD’s hallucinogenic properties in 1943 by Albert Hoffman. In the late-1940s psychiatrists started using it as “psychosis-inducing drug” for schizophrenics. CIA officers investigated LSD’s potential as a weapon of mind-control and became enthusiastic trippers themselves. But the CIA and the medical establishment wanted to keep LSD out of the hands of “undesirables.” The “undesirables” included those in the new youth counterculture who challenged the official line on LSD and explored its potential for creativity and spirituality. So, in the 1960s, as LSD “escaped” into the counter-culture, the producers and distributors were forced underground.

I’ve titled the book Psychedelic Tricksters because in mythology the trickster is someone who “unwisely” defies the powers-on-high, as when Prometheus steals fire from Zeus for the benefit of humankind. The trickster’s rebellion always fails and yet is seen as necessary for the origin of civilizations, or perhaps, as in the case of psychedelics, a new beginning for a society that had lost way in war, racism and sexual oppression.

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