Maine Historical Society

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Merchants of Medicines: The Commerce and Coercion of Health in Britain's Long Eighteenth-Century
a book talk with Zachary Dorner

Recorded on January 27, 2021

The period from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century—the so-called long eighteenth century of English history—was a time of profound change, marked by the expansion of intercontinental empires, long-distance trade, and human enslavement. It was also the moment when medicines, previously produced locally and in small batches, became global products. In Merchants of Medicines, Zachary Dorner follows the earliest industrial pharmaceuticals from their manufacture in the United Kingdom, across trade routes, and to the edges of empire, telling a story of what medicines were, what they did, and what they meant. He brings to life business, medical, and government records to evoke a vibrant early modern world of London laboratories, Caribbean estates, South Asian factories, New England timber camps, and ships at sea. In this talk Dr. Dorner discusses his new history of economic and medical development, emphasizing the local consequences of the transatlantic medicine trade for colonial New England. The collections of the Maine Historical Society proved invaluable to connecting the clearing of Maine white pine and investment in local infrastructure to global circuits of power and profit.

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