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The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics (Paperback)

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A startling account of the history of drug abuse, this book forces us to reconsider many of our views on a controversial issue.

Spanning five centuries and several continents in a sweeping portrait of addiction, The Pursuit of Oblivion traces the history of the use and abuse of narcotics, revealing their subtle transformation from untested medicines to sources of idle pleasure and, relatively recently, to illegal substances. Richard Davenport-Hines, an eminent, prize-winning historian, uncovers the centrality of drug abuse in our modern industrial society, from the drug habits of Charles Dickens and John F. Kennedy to today's $400 billion annual worldwide trade in illicit drugs (the same volume as the oil industry). A vivid portrayal of the people and events that have shaped the history of narcotics, The Pursuit of Oblivion reveals that, contrary to the assumption underlying current drug policies, our need to escape reality and our body's need for physical pleasure are both ineradicable aspects of our humanity, unchangeable by government initiative.

About the Author

Richard Davenport-Hines is the recipient of the Wolfson Prize for History and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He writes for the New York Times, TLS, Sunday Times, and The Independent. He lives in London.

Praise For…

Pragmatic and persuasive, full of fascinating lore and intelligent interpretation... overwhelming evidence and penetrating analysis.
— Boston Globe

Factually detailed and rich in anecdote.
— Boston Phoenix

A good read: lively, anecdotal, and written with the reader in mind.
— D.M. Fahey - Choice

A well-drawn, comprehensive account of a troubling subject.
— Kirkus Reviews

The best general account of the subject...thoroughly researched and expertly written.
— Roy Porter - Literary Review

Starred Review. A sharply opinionated history of drugs...encyclopedic in scope and varied in perspective...difficult to dismiss.
— Publishers Weekly

An impressively researched and exhaustive volume...[that] should be considered definitive.
— San Diego Union Tribune

The most important study on this subject in years, perhaps ever.
— Phillip Knightley - Sunday Times [London]

His book is a technical triumph: well researched, well-written, well presented. . . . Moreover, it is convincing.
— Felipe Fernandez-Armesto - The Independent

Highly extremely impressive work.
— Christine Keneally - The New York Times

America has exported bad drug policy since the Civil War, the book shows.
— The Week

Accomplished with authority and flair.
— Virginia Quarterly Review

A stern and sustained history...first-rate scholarship...a powerful indictment of mostly failed policy.
— Washington Post

An amazing, knock-your-socks-off book, argued with depth and cunning....A stunning and vital book.
— James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California

[A] highly literate and readable author who is thoroughly conversant with the international and intercontinental aspects of drug policy.
— Philip Jenkins, author of Synthetic Panics

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393325454
ISBN-10: 0393325458
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: March 17th, 2004
Pages: 586
Language: English
ABA Admin Product Details
Data Source: ONIX
Created At: 11/4/2014 11:02am
Last Updated At: 5/28/2022 11:55pm