When one thinks of addiction in the nineteenth century, varied images might come to mind: the cultured opium-eater indulging his arcane, secret habit; the drunken working man sprawling in the street, and the blue-nosed temperance spinster haranguing him; the refined lady taking perhaps a touch more alcohol than her physician has prescribed for her neuralgia; the underworld of opium dens where Chinese sailors lie on couches in a glazed stupor. Each of these images springs from a history of a specific kind of consumption that was unknown before the nineteenth century, and which has become increasingly intelligible in the twentieth. By sketching the nineteenth-century origins of addiction, this essay offers new contexts for these stereotypes and new ways of understanding them.

Related Material

Further Reading

Bailey, Peter. Leisure and Class in Victorian England: Rational Recreation and the Contest for Control, 1815-1885. (London: Methuen, 1978).

Berridge, Virginia and Griffith Edwards. Opium and the People: Opiate Use in Nineteenth-Century England (London: St. Martin's Press, 1981).

Bynum, W. F. "Alcoholism and Degeneration in 19th Century European Medicine and Psychiatry" British Journal of Addiction 79 (1984), 59-70.

Driscoll, Lawrence. Rediscovering Drugs: Mapping Victorian and Modern Drug Discourses (New York: Palgrave, 2000).

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception Trans. A. M. Sheridan. (New York: Vintage, 1994).

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Vol. I Trans. Robert Hurley. (New York: Vintage, 1990).

Harding, Geoffrey. Opiate Addiction, Morality and Medicine: From Moral Illness to Pathological Disease (London: St. Martin's Press, 1988).

Harrison, Brian. Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England, 1815-1872 (London: Faber and Faber, 1971).

Howard-Jones, Norman. "A Critical Study of the Origins and Early Development of Hypodermic Medication," Journal of the History of Medicine 2:2 (Spring 1947), 201-249.

McCandless, Peter. " 'Curses of Civilization': Insanity and Drunkenness in Victorian Britain." British Journal of Addiction 79 (1984), 49-58.

Milligan, Barry. Pleasures and Pains: Opium and the Orient in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995).

Malcolm, Elizabeth. "Ireland Sober, Ireland Free": Drink and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1986).

Milligan, Barry. Pleasures and Pains: Opium and the Orient in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995).

Parssinen, Terry. Secret Passions, Secret Remedies: Narcotic Drugs in British Society, 1820-1930. (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1983).

Porter, Roy and Mikulas Teich. Drugs and Narcotics in History. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Sedgwick, Eve. Tendencies. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993).

Valverde, Mariana. Diseases of the Will: Alcohol and the Dilemmas of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Created 7 September 2002

Last modified 14 January 2020