Drugs and Empire: Twenty Years On

Shanghai University, 6-8 December 2023

Organized by the CSHHH Glasgow at the University of Strathclyde and the David F. Musto Center for Drugs and National Security Studies at Shanghai University

In 2003 the University of Strathclyde hosted the 'Drugs and Empires: narcotics, history and modern colonialism, c. 1600-c. 1960' conference in Glasgow, organised by Patricia Barton and James Mills and supported by the British Academy. Attended by historians such as John Richards, Richard Newman and Bill McAllister who had started to rethink histories of imperialism and intoxication, the event generated a collected volume of the same name (2007) which sought to capture the revisionist approaches of the period. On the twentieth anniversary of the event the original organizers, working with the University of Strathclyde's partners at Shanghai University, return to themes of imperialism and intoxication. The aims are to assess the work of the two decades since the original event, to connect activities in the field to wider historiographical developments, and to explore recent and current archival research.

Questions to be tackled include;

  1. What roles did colonialism and imperialism play in the emergence and diversification of markets for intoxicants around the world

  2. How did colonial and imperial administrations approach issues related to intoxication and what shaped their attitudes and policies?

  3. In what ways did consumers of intoxicants respond to changes in markets caused by colonialism and imperialism and what explains their responses?

  4. What other groups and agencies shaped markets for intoxicants in colonised cultures and societies?

  5. How far have the historiographical trends of the last two decades, such as the work in the fields of global history, the history of the emotions, or the history of environments, driven new perspectives on the histories of imperialism and intoxication?

  6. What should the process of decolonizing the histories of intoxication look like in places that have endured imperial pasts?


If you would like to present a paper at the event then please submit a title and abstract (of no more than two hundred words) by Monday, 2 October 2023.

Two bursaries are available to enable doctoral students to attend the event and present their research. Please submit a title and abstract as above, selection will be made by the organizing committee.

If you would like to tune in online during the event then simply get in touch from your institutional/professional email address so you can be added to the list.

All correspondence should be sent to the project manager, Caroline Marley



To learn more about the intriguing image used in the banner click below.

An Inca man requests a goddess of the Incas to hand over coca, but she refuses, holding a bottle of coca wine for herself. 

Mucha, Alphonse, 1860-1939.
Date between 1890 and 1899?
Wellcome Collection Reference 658317i