Albert Hourani Book Award
University of Delaware
The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900
Published by Princeton University Press
Rudi Mathee’s The Pursuit of Pleasure is a groundbreaking study that explores the world of drugs and stimulants in Iran for over four hundred years. The author is to be commended for taking an uncharted path in his research in what is an erudite, thoughtful and meticulously researched book. Matthee draws upon a range of disciplines and sources to explain the significant role that coffee, tea and opiates have played in shaping both culture and politics in Safavid and Qajar Iran, and has achieved a remarkable synthesis of genres, and an original contribution of the first order. The work makes a special addition to Iranian studies, particularly to the less well populated fields of late Safavid and Qajar history. Mathee examines intoxicants and stimulants in terms of trade, social contexts, and moral discourses, but also effortlessly connects Iran to the global economy by focusing on a set of consumables and their commodification in the early modern market. This is a smart, elegant, and thoroughly enjoyable work.