Opium Slavery with Jonathan Jones


Hey all - I am very pleased to welcome Mr. Jonathan Jones to The Rogue Historian! Jonathan is a historian of the nineteenth-century U.S., with research and teaching interests in the Civil War era, gender, and medicine. He is a currently a PhD candidate at Binghamton University, where he will defend his dissertation on opiate addiction among Civil War veterans—America’s original opioid crisis—in May 2020. Jonathan has published widely on the Civil War-era opiate crisis, including his most recent article “Opium Slavery: Civil War Veterans and Opiate Addiction,” forthcoming in June 2020 at The Journal of the Civil War Era. The article investigates the experience and outcomes of opiate addiction for veterans, and the piece is derived from his dissertation manuscript (which will appear in book form in the near future, so stay tuned!). Jonathan lives in Ithaca, New York, and previously worked as a high school history teacher (I can relate, obvi).

And so it seems that Jonathan is part of a whole new direction in veteran studies, a “dark turn” as it were…which would include the work of some of my recent guests including Sarah Handley-Cousins and Diane Miller Sommerville. Clearly, there is a theme going on here :). Anyway, Jonathan’s work is an important addition to our understanding of the human experience in the aftermath of war, which helps to broaden our understanding of addiction as it relates to all sorts of things. We discuss:

  •  The reach of opium addiction in the post Civil War era

  • A medical “Wild West” (so to speak)

  • The very deliberate use of the work “slavery” to describe addiction

  • Addiction, manhood, and Victorian America

  • Immorality and addiction (important note: Grover Cleveland is a dickweed)

  • Addiction and race, especially as it relates to Chinese immigrants on the West Coast

  • Addiction and popular culture - representation of opium use on television shows such as Mercy Street, Deadwood, and Peaky Blinders

  • Methodology and how digital history has changed everything

Have a listen…

We also discuss the historiography of opium addiction, especially the work (dating back to the 1970s) of David T. Courtwright, who has authored several articles and a number of books on addiction…including Dark Paradise: A History of Opioid Addiction in America and The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business. Be sure to Jonathan visit on Twitter and at his website. I think you will find his work fascinating indeed!

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With compliments,