The Points Interview: Howard Markel

The Points Interview returns today after a six-week holiday, with the fourteenth installment of the series featuring Howard Markel’s An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.  Just released by Pantheon, An Anatomy of Addiction has already received considerable notice, including this review in the Sunday New York Times and this review in Salon.  Markel is the wearer of many hats at the University of Michigan, including serving as the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, and we’re grateful to him for taking a moment to discuss his book.

1. Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.
An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cover of An Anatomy of Addiction by Howard MarkelCocaine is the story of two medical giants who happened to abuse cocaine.  Freud, of course, is the father of psychoanalysis, while Halsted, who is less well known to the general reader, was the father of modern surgery. Both experimented with cocaine to help others. Freud hoped it would cure a dear friend of morphine addiction, and Halsted believed cocaine was destined to be the world’s first truly effective local anesthetic. Both used themselves as guinea pigs, and were soon ‘hooked’.  Through their shared addiction, Freud and Halsted are tragic figures, but the sum of their life achievements makes them heroes. Freud never used the drug intravenously, and very likely overcame his addiction just as he started developing the therapeutic process we know as psychoanalysis. Halsted wasn’t as lucky. He used cocaine and morphine intravenously for the rest of his life, and underwent the personality changes and alienations we now associate with the addiction process. His iron will to develop new and better surgical techniques, and to teach these to students at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was strong enough to insure that he confined his addictive excesses to times away from the hospital.
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Points on Blogs, Coming Soon

Vacation is Over

Editors’ Note: Next week we begin a new series introducing our readers to other interesting and/or useful blogs.  From the beginnings of the Points blog, we have been conscious–and appreciative–of the work of our fellow bloggers, but have spent precious little time acknowledging that work.  Dedicated readers of Points will remember this early exchange with Mikelis Beitiks of the Mexican Opium blog, including his thoughtful response.  There’s certainly more worthy blogging to be discussed here.  We don’t include a blogroll on this site (we’re happy whenever Points turns up on other blogrolls, of course), so this series will serve as our guide to the engaging and provocative world beyond.  We’ll begin the series next week.  This post is something of a call to action for our readers.  If you have suggestions for blogs to be reviewed in this series, please let us know!  Bear in mind that blogs do not have to be purely academic, or historical–we’ve happy to feature work that speaks to drug and alcohol issues from any number of perspectives.  Send your suggestions via a comment on this post, or write directly to Joe Spillane (spillane at ufl dot edu). Thanks.

Beyond Andean Cocaine: Excess Ideas for Further Cocaine Research

Editors’ Note: Graduate students, pay attention!  This guest post from SUNY-Stony Brook historian Paul Gootenberg lays out a series of dissertation-worthy research questions in cocaine’s modern history.  Readers of all sorts will observe that many of the unanswered questions have to do with trends in cocaine’s consumption.  Historical studies of consumer behavior (in the “drug” field, anyway) lag far behind studies of state policy or the construction of addiction/disease models.  Thanks to Paul–an outstanding historian of cocaine–for helping to take us further.

By now, I hope that many of you who follow this blog have read my 2009 book  Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (UNC Press).  I urge those who haven’t to immediately buy it.  As an historian who put about fifteen years of my life into its research and writing, I have to admit being truly gratified by its reception by other drug historians, social scientists, world historians, fellow Latin Americanists and even a few stray drug-reform pundits. Reviewers and readers seem to grasp and keenly appreciate the book’s core aims: discovering new sources, actors, and narratives around the drug, putting them into a cohesive new global perspective, and tracing cocaine’s long-run transformation, from its rise as a novel world commodity in the 1880s to its descent into an illicit good and drug culture by the 1970s.  I hoped it would extend transnationally Joseph Spillane’s magnificent monograph on the turn-of-century United States, Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menance (Johns Hopkins, 2000), the book that pioneered serious historical scrutiny of cocaine after long neglect and mountains of cliche.  Or nuance with archival depth David Courtwright’s lucid world commodity treatment of drugs, Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard, 2001).

Take my research ideas...please!

So let me express my personal discontent with Andean Cocaine, which has less to do with its conceptual frames (which are bound to shift as more historians study the drug) and more to do with gaps and topics that could not be adequately addressed in the book’s admittedly grandiose global reach.  Andean Cocaine could only suggest where these topics might fit into the larger synthetic puzzle, based on the scant available evidence.  Attention all grad students eager to pursue drug-history dissertation topics (or any interested colleagues): these themes are ripe for further research! Continue reading →

E.M. Jellinek’s Departure from Budapest in 1920, Part Two

Part One of this post may be found here.

László Frank(1) described a chance encounter with Jellinek on the streets of Berlin in 1930, 10 years after Jellinek’s disappearance from Budapest.  He, wrote Frank, looked like “a skinny, brown-haired, middle-aged man.”  Jellinek told Frank that he did not live in Berlin but was just visiting.  Frank asked, in effect, if Jellinek’s visit exposed him to the risk of arrest.  Jellinek replied that his lawyer assured him that a ten-year statute of limitations since the arrest warrant’s issue had expired.

Frank and Jellinek retired to a coffee shop, where the following conversation occurred: Continue reading →