We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the this website. See our cookie policy for information how to change your cookie settings.
High Society: smoking caterpillar image

The book

Bok cover: 'High Society' by Mike Jay

Designed to accompany the exhibition, 'High Society: Mind altering drugs in history and culture' explores the spectrum of mind-altering substances across the globe and throughout history. Beautifully illustrated with rarely seen material, this striking, lyrical and rigorously researched book puts its controversial subject into the widest possible context.

Acclaimed cultural historian Mike Jay, one of the curators of the 'High Society' exhibition, paints vivid portraits of the roles that drugs play as medicines, religious sacraments, status symbols and coveted trade goods. He traces the understanding of intoxicants from the botanicals of the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists to the present 'war on drugs', and reveals how the international trade in substances such as tobacco, tea and opium shaped the modern world.


A Universal Impulse

  • High Societies
  • The Evolution of Drugs
  • Animal Intoxication
  • Drugs and Shamanism
  • Drugs and Culture
  • The Culture of Kava
  • The Culture of Betel
  • Drug Prohibitions
  • Drug Subcultures
  • The Cultures of Ecstasy

Read the opening of A Universal Impulse

From Apothecary to Laboratory

  • What Is a Drug?
  • Drugs in Antiquity
  • Renaissance Herbals
  • Witches and Flying Ointments
  • The Invention of Laudanum
  • Linnaeus and the Enlightenment
  • The First Synthetic Drugs
  • Opium and the Romantics
  • The Club des Haschischins
  • Freud and Cocaine
  • Addiction and Drug Control
  • Mescaline, LSD and Beyond
  • Drugs of the Future


The Drugs Trade

  • Drugs of the New World
  • The Psychoactive Revolution
  • Tobacco in China, Tea in Europe
  • The Opium Wars
  • The Anti-Opium Campaign
  • Temperance and Prohibition
  • The 'War on Drugs'
  • Epilogue: The Decline of Tobacco


Find out more about the book and order

Share |