History ETDs

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Since the Enlightenment, Anglo-American temperance thinkers—who were usually clergymen and physicians—have expressed broader concerns about intoxication and addiction with rhetoric that simultaneously pathologized and criminalized the unsanctioned use of psychoactive substances. During the first half of the eighteenth century, a period known as the Gin Craze, rising levels of urban drunkenness in England came under the sustained gaze of temperance-minded doctors and churchmen, who used a shared language of contagion, disease, and slavery to problematize intoxication simultaneously as a medical and criminal condition. Building on Enlightenment English temperance thought, which was transferred into the United States by physician Benjamin Rush, American temperance discourses during the nineteenth century increasingly relied on the growing authority of medical science to advance a medico-legal definition of intoxication and addiction based on comparisons between alcohol and opium. The rise of a federal drug control paradigm by the end of the Progressive Era—embodied within the Harrison Act (1914) and Eighteenth Amendment (1920)—encoded medico-legal definitions of addiction in federal law. Focusing on broader anxieties about psychoactive drug use in American temperance rhetoric and the language with which they were expressed, this thesis informs the emergence and development of the deeply engrained antipsychoactive sentiments that underpin an on-going War on Drugs in the United States.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Hall, Linda B.

Second Committee Member

Withycombe, Shannon K.



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