Victorian Vices: The use and abuse of Drugs in Victorian Britain

Ref: C2346526

The use of drugs during the Victorian period was less visible than that of alcohol, whether behind the closed doors of the upper classes of Victorian society, or in the opium ‘dens’ at the other end of the social spectrum. This goes some way to explain why there was very little regulation of their sale or use; but the Victorians were more likely to suffer the effects of accidental poisoning than of 'recreational' drugs - including that of over 200 people in Bradford in 1858 by humbugs in which arsenic was used in error. It was no wonder that Victorian advice manuals routinely included sections on antidotes - but these and many other substances known to be harmful still remained freely available. This lecture will look in particular at the trade in opium; the medicinal and ‘recreational’ use and abuse of this and other drugs; the apothecaries, druggists and pharmacists who produced and dispensed drugs; and the debates that led eventually to the regulation of supply and sale.

Course aim

To explore the use of drugs in Victorian Britain, their potential hazards and eventual regulation.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify some aspects of the use of opium as a 'recreational' drug and for medicinal purposes.
  • Give examples of other substances in everyday use that could be hazardous to health.
  • Explain why, despite their known hazards, their sale and use was so little regulated.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

There is nothing that you need to know or bring to lectures.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorian Vices: The use and abuse of Drugs in Victorian Britain

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