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Situated at the crossroads between the history of colonialism, of modern Southeast Asia, and of medical pluralism, this history of medicine and health traces...

Situated at the crossroads between the history of colonialism, of modern Southeast Asia, and of medical pluralism, this history of medicine and health traces the life of pharmaceuticals in Vietnam under French rule. In The Colonial Life of Pharmaceuticals: Medicines and Modernity in Vietnam (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Laurence Monnais examines the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry, looking at both circulation and consumption, considering access to drugs and the existence of multiple therapeutic options in a colonial context. She argues that colonialism was crucial to the worldwide diffusion of modern medicines and speaks to contemporary concerns regarding over-reliance on pharmaceuticals, drug toxicity, self-medication, and the accessibility of effective medicines. Retracing the steps by which pharmaceuticals were produced and distributed, readers meet the many players in the process, from colonial doctors to private pharmacists, from consumers to various drug traders and healers. Yet this is not primarily a history of medicines as objects of colonial science, but rather a history of medicines as tools of social change.

Laurence Monnais is a Professor of History at the University of Montreal.


Lucas Richert is an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health.