A well-crafted history of civilization seen through the prism of one of the most profitable agricultural products in human...



A sweeping, panoramic history of opium and its deep roots in a vast array of societies and cultures.

Inglis (Crow Mountain, 2016, etc.) opens with an observation from Thomas Jefferson, who noted, “merchants know no country,” and ends with her own trenchant observation that the war on opium is endless. In between is a story that stretches across 5,000 years of history and touches nearly every part of human civilization. The author begins in the Fertile Crescent and then traces the cultivation of opium through the Bronze Age, the Greek and Roman civilizations (“Homeric references to the opium poppy are concerned with the need for emotional oblivion, but Greek scholars were also discovering its many medicinal properties”), the Renaissance, the disastrous Opium Wars, and the creation of Hong Kong. Inglis’ history is not only wide, but deep due to her keen analysis of how entrenched opium is in modern culture in everything, from medicine to war to addiction to commerce. In the second half of the book, the author covers the isolation of morphine from opium and how new discoveries transformed the West. The third part of the book brings us quickly to today, focusing on the ready availability of professionally produced heroin, the explosion of big pharma, and the markets that have created “Generation Oxy.” If there’s one message to take from this history, it’s that prohibition doesn’t work. As Inglis notes, whether it’s crimes committed by gangsters or strategies rolled out by massive pharmaceutical companies, this gift from the natural world to ease pain and suffering has become a commodity. She ends where she began: “Within all of these parameters, economies are built, both legal and illegal, petty and international. And whether they be sidewalk dope dealers or pharmaceutical giants, merchants know no country, just as the search for even a glimpse of paradise is constant and without end.”

A well-crafted history of civilization seen through the prism of one of the most profitable agricultural products in human history.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-055-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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