Dissertation Abstracts: Drug History Edition

At Points we periodically post abstracts for dissertations published in fields relevant to the history of drugs, graciously compiled by Jonathon Erlen, History of Medicine Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh (erlen@pitt.edu). Last week we offered you an interdisciplinary collection, somewhat representative of the ongoing bibliography, minus hard science fields such as neuroscience and pharmacology. This week, we bring you an assortment of international histories of drug use, policy, and commerce.

Narcotics vs. the Nation: The Culture and Politics of Opiate Control in Britain and France, 1821–1926

Author: Padwa, Howarad Philip

Abstract: Even though they faced similar drug problems in the early-twentieth century, Britain and France adopted radically different approaches towards narcotics control and addiction. The British allowed for their addicted citizens to receive maintenance treatments for their opiate habits, and pushed for stringent controls internationally; the French, by contrast, took a more penal approach towards handling addiction at home, yet were not particularly enthusiastic when it came to the global struggle against narcotics. In this dissertation, I set out to explain why this came to be by examining the development of drug discourses in the nineteenth century, and then the birth of each country’s national narcotics control regime in the first two decades of the twentieth. Using primary-source evidence mined from contemporary works of literature, medical texts, journalistic accounts, official government documents, and state archives, I argue that the driving forces behind the British and French pushes towards narcotics control in the early-twentieth century lay in broader understandings of the nation, and fears of what narcotics could do to the national community if the state did not intervene. In Britain, where the nation was imagined as one defined by liberty and freedom of trade, narcotics became a major concern for the authorities in London when they were feared to pose an economic threat—both by making citizens apathetic and unwilling to work, and by endangering the nation’s ability to continue trading freely with other countries that had already placed restrictions on the drugs. In France, on the other hand, narcotics became particularly problematic because of their association with solipsism, and their apparent irreconcilability with the tenets of republican citizenship. Consequently, the French crusade against narcotics was painted with a particularly nationalist brush, and was instigated by the military, not the guardians of public health. Officials in Britain and France approached the task of narcotics control differently, therefore, because they had two very different goals—to preserve economic well-being in Britain, and to preserve ideological well-being in France.

Advisor: Baldwin, Peter

University/institution: University of California, Los Angeles

 

“Red Tabs”: Life and Death in the 6th South African Armoured Division, 1943 – 1945

Author: Bourhill, James Fraser

 

Abstract: The thesis seeks to understand, first and foremost, what the members of the 6 th South African Armoured Division in Italy during the Second World War experienced in their day-to-day lives on campaign. It is therefore primarily a social history. Although an exhaustive analysis of the demographics of the division is beyond the scope of this study, an attempt was made in Chapter 2 to identify some of the characteristics of the volunteers and their motivations for enlisting. Recruitment statistics and other sources show that in the final stage of the war, volunteers were most likely to be school-leavers and university students. Chapters three to eight detail the daily life in camp and on the road as the division progressed up the length of Italy. The main themes revolve around the necessities of life, recreation, leisure and ways of dealing with long periods of inactivity. The more controversial topics of sexuality, alcohol use, and battle fatigue are not avoided. Regardless of the capacity in which they served, all those attached to the 6th South African Armoured Division experienced the country and its people. Homesickness, discomfort and the fulfilling of basic needs was the common bond. Chapter nine examines the topic of casualties and what it reveals about the men and their experience. At first glance, it would appear that the casualty rate was exceptionally low for a front line division. However, on closer examination, the casualty rate was found to be in line with that experienced by other nations involved in the Italian campaign. As expected, it was found that casualties occurred mainly in infantry units, although accidents accounted for 25 per cent of injuries. In the final chapter, the conclusions are presented and discussed in a theoretical context. Memory is used as a category of analysis. Scholars are in agreement that distortion and cleansing occurred due to the tendency of contemporary accounts to accentuate the positive. The needs of post-war society also helped to ensure that the language and experience of the front line soldier was overwhelmed.

Advisor: Pretorius, F.

University/institution: University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Department: Historical And Heritage Studies

 

Grand Plans in Glass Bottles: A Social, Economic, and Technological History of Beer in Egypt, 1880-1970

Author: Foda, Omar D.

 

Abstract: Contrary to common perceptions, the history of beer (and indeed of other alcoholic beverages) in the Muslim-majority context of Egypt has not been a history of government officials desperately seeking to extirpate the evil of alcohol as rumrunners, backyard brewers, and moonshiners stayed one step ahead. Rather it was a history of a commercially-marketed product that enjoyed relatively wide popularity and robust growth from 1880 to 1980, and sat at the cutting edge of technological innovation in Egypt in that same period. Its success was not only evident from the profitability of the companies that sold it, but also from its increasing appearances in all popular forms of art and media. The title of my dissertation is “Grand Plans in Glass Bottles: An Economic, Social, and Technological history of Beer in Egypt, 1880-1970”. My dissertation studies Egypt during an exciting period, when the country was transitioning from being a quasi-colonial state, under British Occupation after 1882 and, until 1914, under Ottoman influence as well, to being an independent country within a highly competitive global economy. Using American, Dutch, and Egyptian archival sources, as well as Arabic literary sources, I focus on two closely linked companies, Crown and Pyramid Breweries. Originally founded by Belgian expatriates in Egypt, these two firms in their various incarnations developed the Egyptian beer industry and cultivated a wide customer base. I take the story past the 1950s, when the Egyptian government under Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the beer industry (which was by then led by Stella Beer and owned primarily by Heineken) much as it nationalized the Suez Canal. Through the study of this beverage, my research connects the history of Egypt to Belgium, Netherlands, Britain, and elsewhere; the history of a business to developments in technology, politics, and consumer culture; and the history of the people – of “everyday Egyptians” – to business elites. Viewed through a mug of beer, we can tell the economic, political, and cultural history of Egypt at large.

 

Advisor: Sharkey, Heather J.

 

University/institution: University of Pennsylvania

Department: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

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