High Society: The Central Role of Mind-Altering Drugs in History, Science, and Culture
An illustrated cultural history of drug use from its roots in animal intoxication to its future in designer neurochemicals
• Featuring artwork from the upcoming High Society exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, one of the world’s greatest medical history collections
• Explores the roles drugs play in different cultures as medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols, and coveted trade goods
• Reveals how drugs drove the global trade and cultural exchange that made the modern world
• Examines the causes of drug prohibitions a century ago and the current “war on drugs”
Every society is a high society. Every day people drink coffee on European terraces and kava in Pacific villages; chew betel nut in Indonesian markets and coca leaf on Andean mountainsides; swallow ecstasy tablets in the clubs of Amsterdam and opium pills in the deserts of Rajastan; smoke hashish in Himalayan temples and tobacco and marijuana in every nation on earth.
Exploring the spectrum of drug use throughout history–from its roots in animal intoxication to its future in designer neurochemicals–High Society paints vivid portraits of the roles drugs play in different cultures as medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols, and coveted trade goods. From the botanicals of the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of 18th- and 19th-century scientists to the synthetic molecules that have transformed our understanding of the brain, Mike Jay reveals how drugs such as tobacco, tea, and opium drove the global trade and cultural exchange that created the modern world and examines the forces that led to the prohibition of opium and cocaine a century ago and the “war on drugs” that rages today.