Focusing on four European cities between c.1600 and c.1850 – Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and Stockholm – this three-year project (2019–22) explores the impact of new intoxicants on urban public spaces, the role of urban public spaces in assimilating them into European behaviours, and the often exploitative international systems through which they were produced, trafficked, and consumed. Via our events, our online exhibition, and our work with schools, museums, and NGOs, we hope to demonstrate that understanding these processes offers a vital historical perspective on urgent contemporary questions surrounding drug use and abuse, addiction, migration, inclusion and exclusion within public spaces, and the place of intoxicating substances within everyday life.
This short film documents my collaboration with Phil Withington, other academics, and creative partners to explore the significance of intoxicants in Ben Jonson’s The New Inn, and its connections to Bolsover Castle.
Following a well-attended launch event last month, we’re thrilled to report that the project’s Virtual Exhibition is now live! Three years in the making, and conceived as a sort of digital scrapbook, the exhibition brings together over 1,500 exhibits – or ‘scraps’ – from archives, libraries, and museums. All relate to the introduction, circulation, sale, enjoyment, and regulation of new intoxicants in sites and spaces across our case study cities of Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and Stockholm.
‘It Brought Much Slime Out of the Gutts and Made Me Cheerfull’: Defining Intoxicants in the Diary of Robert Hooke
The word ‘intoxicant’ has a central place in this project, as in wider scholarship. But what does the term really mean, and why do historians use it so regularly? Intoxicant is mainly used mainly to describe products which intoxicate – that ‘fuddle or make drunk’, or that artificially alter one’s physiological or neurological state.