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The image and the realities of opium use in the later nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries with special reference to the working-class of Lancashire and Cheshire

Crane, Bettina Susan (1989) The image and the realities of opium use in the later nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries with special reference to the working-class of Lancashire and Cheshire. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86183) (KAR id:86183)


Opium has been used by mankind for both non-medical and medical reasons for over 6000 years. It was used by the ancient Greeks for non-medical reasons and by the ancient Egyptians and the Romans for medical reasons. However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire the medical knowledge of opium was lost in Europe for

700 years. Only with the Mohammedan conquests and the return of the Crusaders in the tenth and eleventh centuries was opium reintroduced into Europe. Until the end of the sixteenth century opium was used for its soporific effects. It was not used as an all round medical cure in Europe until the seventeenth and

eighteenth centuries. In Britain, however, during the nineteenth century an increasing amount of attention was focused upon opiate use. Interest was initially sparked off by the publication of De Quincey's Confessions. This work highlighted the recreational use of opiates amongst the working-class population in the north of England, especially Manchester. As the century progressed many doctors, pharmacists, M.Ps and upper and middle-class writers began to discuss the dangers of opiate use amongst the workingclass population of the north. By the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries three images of opiate use were portrayed in official publications and fictional works. These were the recreational use of opiates amongst the workingclass population, the evils of the 'opium-den' and the dosing of working-class children with opiates for erroneous reasons. The aim of the thesis is to discover whether the images

portrayed an accurate picture, or indeed the whole story of working-class opiate use at the end of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. An in-depth investigation into working-class opiate use in Lancashire and Cheshire demonstrates that the people did not use opiates for recreational reasons, but

that they used them primarily for medical reasons. Oral history is the main source of evidence. This enables the working class of Lancashire and Cheshire to tell their own history and their own reasons for opiate use.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86183
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: History; opium
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:32 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 13:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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