Monday, 4 March 2013, 1:00PM
Museum of London

An Infernal Spark: Drink, Addiction and Disease

Dr James Nicholls

Addiction is a familiar feature of contemporary society.  Not only do we have access to numerous substances linked to dependency, but we apply the term ‘addiction’ to an increasing array of other activities: shopping, eating, gambling and so forth.  However, there remains deep uncertainty as to what addiction is, how it develops and how it should be tackled.  Most strikingly, the question of whether addiction is a kind of disease remains unresolved – something which has significant implications for how addiction and addicts are viewed.

Dr Nicholls explores some of the ways in which thinking about addiction developed from the eighteenth to the early  twentieth centuries. He discusses how doctors, clerics and social commentators first began to work through the problem, moving uneasily between moral condemnation and quasi-clinical diagnosis. In following the evolution of these ideas, he considers in particular how changing approaches to addiction (which, until the 20th century, most often meant habitual  drinking) reflected wider social and cultural developments.

This is the first in a series of four 'Mondays at One' lectures, From Gin Lane to the Band of Hope.  Other lectures in the series are as follows:
    The Gordon Riots of 1780: London in flames and a nation in ruins
    Cannabis Britannica: The rise and demise of a Victorian wonder-drug
    "The fangs of the serpent are hid in the bowl": The Temperance Movement

Dr James Nicholls is Research Manager at Alcohol Research UK and and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr Nicholls is author of The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England, and has published widely on the history of drinking and addiction. In 2011-12, he completed a British Academy research fellowship on recent developments in British alcohol policy, and has previously completed a research fellowship investigating historical perspectives on local alcohol interventions for the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  He is currently engaged in research on the role of public health in the development of alcohol policy, as well as working with a range of projects on alcohol education, treatment and harm prevention funded by Alcohol Research UK.
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4 March 2013

An Infernal Spark: Drink, Addiction and Disease
Dr James Nicholls

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