The regular use of mind-altering drugs is a human universal, a culturally patterned behaviour found world-wide. Anthropologists and historians have documented the use of intoxicants by peoples all over the planet, on all levels of cultural complexity, and seemingly in all periods of human history. Some psychologists argue that the desire to alter consciousness is an innate drive, and pharmacologists have shown how inebriation was a part of life long before mankind came into being, and that it is a primary motivational force in animals. Drugs have been used for religious, therapeutic and festive purposes, such as to achieve trance or possession states, to get in touch with preternatural or supernatural realms, for divination and prophecy, to cure or to alleviate physical or mental ills, to celebrate and mark socially relevant transitions, and to escape ordinary conditions of existence. The large-scale production of drugs in modern times has made them more widely available and affordable to larger sectors of the population. In many countries around and within the Pacific, this modern transformation has been especially intense and dramatic.
Since the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, psychoactive drugs have played a growing role in the history of societies from China to Peru, and from Alaska and Siberia to Australia. This volume provides a selection of papers that re-evaluates both the history of mind-altering substances in the Pacific World and the crucial historical transformations connected with them. Coverage stretches from the arrival of Portuguese in Macao and Spaniards along the Pacific coast of America, until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, two years after the Shanghai Conference that established the first international agreement on the control of "narcotics".
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Group