Battlefield highs

Louis Lillywhite assesses a history of drug use in warfare

The World Today
3 minute READ

Shooting Up – A History of Drugs and War
Lukasz Kamienski, Hurst & Company, £25

From the Scythians who, Herodotus tells us, would inhale the smoke of smouldering hemp before battle, various cultures have used drugs through the ages to harden battlefield nerves and fight fatigue. Shooting Up traces the usage of such drugs, describing which were used by whom. It is an extensively researched book with more than a thousand references and has a table in the conclusion that provides a handy reference as the author takes the reader on a journey through time.

The book is in three parts. A prologue traces the use of alcohol through history. The next set of chapters addresses the period up until the Second World War and the final set addresses modern times. The three parts are quite different, and I felt that only the third − undoubtedly the best part − addresses the relationship between drugs and conflict.

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