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A Social History of Drug Consumption in China (2002)

A Social History of Drug Consumption in China (2002)

  1. Jatelka
    The British Journal of Criminology 42:317-336 (2002)

    Frank Dikotter, Lars Laamann and Zhou Xun

    Abstract
    Opium and China are synonymous, yet historians have so far failed to answer one key question: why was opium rather than cannabis or coffee so eagerly consumed? This article is a preliminary exploration of the cultural significance and social uses of narcotics from the sixteenth to the midtwentieth centuries. On the basis of fresh evidence drawn from archival material and other primary sources, it highlights the social dynamics behind the huge expansion of narcotics, from opium smoking as a prestigious elite activity in the seventeenth century to the mass use of morphine in the twentieth century. The authors aim to account for the rapidly changing patterns of opium consumption and establish their cultural and social determinants, and to explore the prehistory of opium well before the advent of the Opium War in order to explain how foreign merchants responded to indigenously generated demands. We also explode the myth of opium smoking as the main consumption pattern by charting various narcotics used in twentieth century China, from heroin pills to morphine injections.