“A miserable captivity” or “happily redeemed from captivity to liberty”: Tobacco, addiction, and early modern bodies and minds

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Compare this with another tale told about tobacco in a medical book more than 200 years later. This one comes from an anonymous “Gentleman of the University of Cambridge,” who published A Treatise upon the Herb Tobacco, Pointing out its Deleterious Pernicious Quality, and its Fatal Effects upon the Human Constitution, by the Great Variety of Disorders it Occasions in 1789. This gentleman physician related a story about a clergyman he knew: These two stories, bookending over two centuries of early modern history, raise several interesting points about the early use of tobacco. Tobacco’s rapid emergence as an indispensable consumer good, as medicine, and as a commodity in early modern Europe has been well documented.3 What is less well known is what it was like to use tobacco at the time; the subjective experience of smoking, snuffing, or otherwise ingesting this new drug into the body. in these two examples, both Etienne and Liebault and the “Gentleman of Cambridge” claimed to be able to read the effects of tobacco on the body. Whether removing grotesque facial deformities or turning the teeth a “black, loathsome hue,” tobacco’s effects, good or bad, were clearly manifested on the human body, especially the face. Second, commentators on tobacco also emphasized its effects on the mind: reason, memory, and other intellectual faculties. Lastly, writers like the English physician noted that tobacco affected not just intelligence and reason, but also the will-habitual users were unable to stop.4.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Linking of Heaven and Earth
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Religious and Cultural History in Honor of Carlos M.N. Eire
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781317187660
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 Emily Michelson, Scott K. Taylor and Mary Noll Venables, and the contributors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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