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Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century Paperback – May 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mike Jay has written a book on the sacred plant drugs in Indo-European prehistory, an anthology of drug literature, and co-edited a collection of essays on evolution, decadence, atheism, the unconscious, feminism, sexology and futurism. He has also written on the social history of drugs for The Guardian, The Independent, Arena, Fortean Times and the International Journal of Drug Policy, among others.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dedalus Concept Books
  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus; First Edition edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1873982488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1873982488
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,850,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Isaksson on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Many people think that drugs are a new thing, which the hippies in San Francisco in the 1960s more or less introduced drugs to the West, and that people "in the good old days" never dealt with drugs whatsoever. Drug use and drug abuse is something new, something only modern man has ever done, and most important of all: if you're interested in drugs, then you're a junkie, and that's how it is. Period.

Not true. Drugs aren't a new thing, go ask any archaeologist or anthropologist, and you'll be told how humans throughout history have used different intoxicants in order to reach other levels of consciousness and come in contact with their gods. There was a time when drugs - or, what contemporary man define as drugs - were not yet criminalized, when you could go to your local pharmacy and buy a bag of heroin or cocaine, and when many of the greatest names within literature, medicine, art, and philosophy were to try any substance they could get their hands on.

This was the nineteenth century, and in Emperors of Dreams Mike Jay offers a precise account of how cannabis, cocaine, opium, "laughing gas", ether, magic mushrooms, and mescaline were introduced to 19th century England, Europe, and America, who the individuals were that first started experimenting with them, and how society's views of the substances were shaped into what they are today.

Yeah, well, why should anyone bother reading about people doing drugs more than a century ago? Simply because sometimes - unfortunately quite often, to be correct - truth hurts and/or is very different from what you were taught in school, and there are few things as refreshing as a dose of the real world:

Sigmund Freud? A great fan of cocaine. Baudelaire and Gautier? The more hashish the better. Conan Doyle?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Justin Case on February 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone interested in the cultural and literary history of recreational drugs, I have bought and read this "Emperor of Dreams", "Writing on Drugs" by Sadie Plant and "The Road of Excess" by Marcus Boon.

"Emperor of Dreams" is very well done. I found it to well balanced in that it provided a lot of factual information without being dry, it was a fascinating page-turner without being sensational, it was not dumbed-down but it was easy to read and hard to put down. This is coming from a reader with a very short attention span unless the reading material is fascinating.

Although the book is not centrally focused on drug literature, this author provides more actual information on this branch of literature than Sadie Plant does in her book which presents itself as just that; a book about "Writing on Drugs" (which, by the way, I reviewed).

I would say that "Emperor of Dreams" and "The Road of Excess" are both great and about equally good, but they are different enough so that it would not be redundant to read them both. Rather, as good as each of these books is on their own, the two of them together round out the subject well. "Emperor of Dreams" is certainly easier to read and "The Road to Excess" is more academic, both are insightful and illuminating.

If one reads either "Emperor of Dreams" or "The Road of Excess" then one would learn little from "Writing on Drugs" except perhaps what sort of distracted, meandering and structureless book would result from writing about drugs while on drugs; It seems the author of "Writing on Drugs", Sadie Plant, was too drugged to write anything but an absent minded, distracted and meandering book.

But "Emperor of Dreams" is great reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Oneleggoalie on November 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition will be too. A must read if only for the bit about both sides of the "drug" spectrum; one where the hippies wanted to claim historical origins and the establishment simply wanted to exterminate any viable opinion.

Recommended easy reading. Humbly submitted by Oneleg
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