Cocaine and cultural mythology, 1860–1919


  • Dr Douglas Small

    University of Glasgow

Project summary

Dr Small will produce the first significant study of cocaine in the cultural imagination of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When, in 1884, it was discovered that cocaine could be used as an effective local anaesthetic, the drug captured both medical and popular imagination. Medical writers, authors and journalists alike celebrated cocaine as the culmination of nineteenth-century therapeutic technology. The drug therefore represents a point of contact between medical and non-medical spheres, at a time when the two were becoming increasingly delineated.

This study focuses on literary representations of cocaine to establish the cultural and symbolic function of the drug in representations of, among others, the medical professional, medical technological innovation, and the gendered relationships between patients and practitioners.