The Alcohol and Drugs History Society meets every two years, and its 2019 meeting held in Shanghai, China, recently concluded. The conference was host to new and exciting panels and papers. AIHP’s Historical Director, Dr. Lucas Richert, organized a panel called “Controls and Culture in the History of Pharmacy.”
Longtime AIHP member Dr. Patricia Barton (University of Strathclyde) presented work on the United Kingdom, including both Scotland and England. Her paper was titled: “‘Who takes the blame?’: Pharmacists, Doctors and the Control of ‘Dangerous Drugs’ in Britain in the Inter-War Period.” She examined the difference between the dispensing of prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) sales of medications containing “dangerous drugs” to assess the extent of control placed on the everyday actions of pharmacists by a society in which fear of addiction through recreational use of intoxicants contrasted with its demand to have medicinal access to such drugs. It sparked many questions.
Another Institute member, Dr. Richard Del Rio (University of Chicago PhD ‘2018), also presented his work, which has been supported by AIHP research grants. Dr. Del Rio’s paper was called “Mass Production of Proprietary Medicines in the Nineteenth Century and the Modernization of the American Dual Market in Drugs.” He explored the historical connections between changes in the pharmaceutical industry and criminal justice policy, as well as how questions of intellectual property and pricing relate to issues of human bondage and violence.
Then, Dr. Anna Greenwood (University of Nottingham) shared her excellent work. Her paper was titled “Boots the Chemists and the Networks of Empire: 1849-1940.” Boots is well-known as a leading pharmacy chain in the UK. Less known, Boots remains a massive global company with outlets in places as diverse as Sweden, Holland, Thailand, and Kuwait, and the company maintains trade networks with every continent except Antarctica. Greenwood positioned Boots as an informal agent of the British Empire, both at home and overseas, and examined racialized narratives of power, claims to legitimacy, studies into the role of the colonial businesses, and better understandings of colonial subjects. Many questions were asked – and some in the audience had actually visited the Boots pharmacies in India.
Finally, Dr. Richert offered his paper that asked questions about the field of pharmacy history. His paper was called “Foraging for the Future of Pharmacy History,” and it stimulated much debate. For more on this, watch out for the next issue of Pharmacy in History, AIHP flagship scholarly publication, which will address the topic of the “Future of Pharmacy History.”
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