- Drugs, Labor, and Colonial Expansion
In this volume, Jankowiak and Bradburd bring together a collection of nine essays along with an introduction and conclusion related to the topic of colonialism, drug consumption, and the use of drugs as a means of expanding trade as well as of getting natives to work for enterprises, mostly agro-pastoral, that benefited the development of colonial economies. The editors begin the volume with an introduction that outlines the theme for the volume, and explores the study of drugs in a colonial context. The drugs that receive the most attention are tobacco and alcohol, followed by sugar, marijuana, and coca. The focus on tobacco and alcohol was dictated more by the essays contained within the volume, rather than the relative importance of other drugs such as opium and its derivatives.
In geographic and temporal terms, the majority of the essays in the volume cover the age of new imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Africa and Australasia. Several essays deal with the Americas. Glaringly absent are essays on the opium trade, or plantation economies in places such as India, parts of Africa, or even the Americas. The essays deal with imported tobacco as against native tobaccos consumed by the Aborigines of Australia; tobacco consumption by natives in Papua-New Guinea; alcohol and the slave trade in west Africa and the fur trade in New France and English North America; the consumption of rum and marijuana by workers in the Trinidad sugar industry; alcohol consumption and labor in Namibia and Botswana; coca in Bolivia; and caffeine found in a variety of products including coffee, tea, and chocolate. The editors conclude the volume with a synthetic discussion of new trends in the study of drug consumption.
The editors do not provide any indication for the selection of essays and topics in the volume, and also do not address efforts, both international and national/local, to control drug consumption. As I have noted above, essays on harder drugs such as opium and its derivatives are lacking in this volume. The [End Page 250] quality of the essays is uneven, as is frequently the case with edited volumes. The essay on alcohol and the fur trade is frustratingly short, as was the contribution on coca consumption by the native peoples of the Andean region prior to and following the Spanish conquest, which is a topic that I am particularly interested in. Given the long history of coca production for local consumption, for export to countries such as Germany and the United States after 1890 for cocaine production, and the more recent illicit drug coca/cocaine economy, this essay was particularly disappointing. The conclusion was also too short, although the editors compensated for this by writing a more comprehensive introduction.
The essays in this volume will be of more interest to general readers with little or no previous exposure to the subject, but will have little to offer to scholars who specialize in the study of drugs as related to colonial labor and trades. The editors lost an opportunity in making this volume more valuable, by not including a more comprehensive bibliography on the literature on the subject, which can be attributed primarily to the authors of the essays. Again citing the example of the essay on coca consumption, the authors cited a limited number of secondary sources, and the reader wanting to learn more about the subject will have to look elsewhere. This book does contribute to the literature, but will be most helpful for classroom use. I do not concur with the assessment printed on the back of the dust jacket that this book “will become the standard work on the subject,” but the essays presented here are worth reading.