This fascinating book traces the global history of marijuana, reaching back thousands of years. Noted historian John Charles Chasteen follows the use of the drug since Neolithic times, which makes marijuana among the first domesticated plants. Surprisingly, though, only infrequently has it been used as a recreational drug. Instead, there is a vibrant spiritual dimension to its long history that has been continually ignored. Beginning with the familiar "outbreak" of the 1960s, Chasteen unearths successive layers of marijuana's history. Written with insight, clarity, sophistication, and good humor, this deeply informed work discusses the cultivation of cannabis and its many forms, including hemp, one of the world's principal fiber crops. After a tour of Latin America, Africa, India, and the Muslim world, Chasteen concludes that unlike alcohol marijuana has always flourished outside the mainstream. Its principal users have been creative outsiders of many kinds--mystics, artists, musicians, free thinkers, and spiritual seekers--as well as poor laborers attracted by its low cost. Marijuana, it seems, is a mind-expanding drug after all, and Chasteen explores its rich heritage with captivating insight.
About the Author
John Charles Chasteen is a North Carolina writer, translator of Spanish and Portuguese, and, for twenty-five years, professor of history at UNC Chapel Hill, where he was born (on campus) in 1955. His classic Born in Blood and Fire is among the most widely read histories of Latin America in the English language. Chasteen's abiding scholarly interest has been the emotional roots of nation and nationalism in nineteenth-century Latin America. His books on the topic include Heroes on Horseback: A Life and Times of the Last Gaucho Caudillos, National Rhythms, African Roots: A Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance, and Americanos: Latin America's Struggle for Independence. Chasteen is also an award-winning editor and translator of Latin American fiction and non-fiction, most recently The Alienist and Other Stories of Nineteenth-Century Brazil by the Brazilian literary master Joaquim Machado de Assis and The Gaucho Juan Moreira, the classic Argentine "true crime" saga by Eduardo Gutierrez. He has a bilingual screenplay adaptation of W. H. Hudson's The Purple Land, if anyone knows a producer. He lives with his wife, Carmen, in the countryside near Chapel Hill.