Is opium a vile curse on society, a blessed medicine from God, or possibly both? This fresh history offers surprising new insights.
Opium and its derivatives morphine and heroin have destroyed, corrupted, and killed individuals, families, communities, and even whole nations. And yet, for most of its long history, opium has also been humanity's most effective means of alleviating physical and mental pain. This extraordinary book encompasses the entire history of the world's most fascinating drug, from the first evidence of poppy cultivation by stone-age man to the present-day opium trade in Afghanistan. Dr. Thomas Dormandy tells the story with verve and insight, uncovering the strange power of opiates to motivate major conflicts yet also inspire great art and medical breakthroughs, to trigger the rise of global criminal networks yet also revolutionize attitudes toward well-being.
Opium: Reality's Dark Dream traverses the globe and the centuries, exploring opium's role in colonialism, the Chinese Opium Wars, laudanum-inspired sublime Romantic poetry, American "Yellow Peril" fears, the rise of the Mafia and the black market, 1960s counterculture, and more. Dr. Dormandy also recounts exotic or sad stories of individual addiction. Throughout the book the author emphasizes opium's complex, valuable relationship with developments in medicine, health, and disease, highlighting the perplexing dual nature of the drug as both the cause and relief of great suffering in widely diverse civilizations.
“Opium: Reality’s Dark Dream by Thomas Dormandy, is that rare thing: both an extraordinary work of scholarship and a rip-roaring read.”—Rebecca Rose, Prospect ~Rebecca Rose, Prospect
“Thomas Dormandy is an elegant, dryly amusing writer who plainly has an unquenchable appetite for research.”—John Preston, Daily Mail ~John Preston, Daily Mail
“Rich and engaging . . . a rare triumph.”—Washington Post~Washington Post
“…[A] lively and fascinating chronicle of opium…The book is a remarkable synthesis of different fields of knowledge.”—Peter Swabb, Daily Telegraph ~Peter Swabb, Daily Telegraph
“…[A] scholarly yet wonderfully readable book.”—Teresa Levonian Cole, Country Life ~Teresa Levonian Cole, Country Life
"Rich in stories and an entertaining read, Dr Dormandy has traced the many lives of opium, from the Stone Age to the War of Terror." —Yangwen Zheng, BBC History Magazine~Yangwen Zheng, BBC History Magazine
“A wide-ranging and highly engaging history of one of the world’s most prominent (and most addictive) narcotics."—Library Journal~Library Journal