High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture

High Society

Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture

  1. Mike Jay
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  • ISBN 9780500251720
  • 24.00 x 17.00 cm
  • Hardback
  • 192pp
  • 157 Illustrations, 142 in colour
  • First published 2010
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‘Fascinating and highly recommended’ – Psychedelic Press
‘Straightforward and engaging storytelling and cool headed analysis of use of, and attitudes towards, mind-altering drugs … deserves high praise for rendering a complex, controversial topic with clarity and elegance. It’s also good looking … quite marvellous’ – British Medical Journal

High Society explores the spectrum of mind-altering substances across the globe and throughout history. Beautifully illustrated with rarely seen material, this striking, lyrical and rigorously researched book puts its controversial subject into the widest possible context.

See the fascinating video of Mike Jay talking about 'High Society':


Every society is a high society. Every day, people drink coffee on European terraces and kava in Pacific villages, sniff cocaine in American suburbs and petrol in Aborigine slums, 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 Rajasthan, and smoke ya'aba in Thai nightclubs, hashish in Himalayan temples and tobacco in every nation on earth.

Acclaimed cultural historian Mike Jay paints vivid portraits of the roles that drugs playas medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols and coveted trade goods. He traces the understanding of intoxicants from the botanicals of the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists to the present 'war on drugs', and reveals how the international trade in substances such as tobacco, tea and opium shaped the modern world.

A Universal Impulse Read the opening here
High Societies • The Evolution of Drugs • Animal Intoxication • Drugs and Shamanism • Drugs and Culture • The Culture of Kava • The Culture of Betel • Drug Prohibitions • Drug Subcultures • The Cultures of Ecstasy
From Apothecary to Laboratory
What Is a Drug? • Drugs in Antiquity • Renaissance Herbals • Witches and Flying Ointments • The Invention of Laudanum • Linnaeus and the Enlightenment •
The First Synthetic Drugs • Opium and the Romantics • The Club des Haschischins • Freud and Cocaine • Addiction and Drug Control • Mescaline, LSD and Beyond • Drugs of the Future
The Drugs Trade
Drugs of the New World • The Psychoactive Revolution • Tobacco in China, Tea in Europe • The Opium Wars • The Anti-Opium campaign • Temperance and Prohibition • The ‘War on Drugs’ • Epilogue: The Decline of Tobacco

Mike Jay has written widely on the history of science and medicine and is a leading specialist in the history of drugs across history and cultures. He is the editor of Artificial Paradises, an anthology of drug literature, and author of the widely-acclaimed Emperors of Dreams, a narrative history of drugs in the nineteenth century, and The Atmosphere of Heaven on the discovery of Nitrous oxide.

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Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion