Congratulations to the 2021 Anne Bailey Prize Winner

Congratulations to the 2021 Anne Bailey Prize Winner

We are happy to announce that Jonathan Jones has been awarded the Anne Bailey Prize for 2021 for his dissertation, “Opium Slavery: Veterans and Addiction in the American Civil War Era.” The selection committee was chaired by Jane E. Schultz, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, and included Kathryn Shively, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Andrew Lang, Mississippi State University. Jonathan’s dissertation Binghamton University was directed by Diane Miller Sommerville; the committee included Gerald Kutcher, Robert Parkinson, and cognate member Judy Giesberg of Villanova University. Jones is currently an assistant professor at the Virginia Military Institute.

Portrait of man standing in doorwayFrom the committee:  This project offers an intervention in disability and medical studies by investigating drug protocols administered to sick and wounded soldiers to arrest pain during the Civil War and then by charting the consequences of those protocols in the long postwar period.  In his research Jones finds an early opioid crisis that has never been recognized as such and that has crucial resonances with the 21st-century version of opioid overuse instigated by the pharmaceutical industry and an under-cautious medical establishment. It is not simply that Jones’s study of Civil War soldiers’ addictions has current sociomedical relevance, but in showing how addiction has been systemically and institutionally constructed, he provides a model and a cautionary tale about the perils of accusing veterans of moral weakness instead of the chemical dependency that was, in effect, perpetrated on them by 19th-century medical practitioners who were caught up in dangerous cycles of over-prescribing.  In this sense, Jones has brought modern medical knowledge of the pharmacopoeia to bear on what he terms the first national “epidemic” of opioid abuse. Given the last two decades of scholarship on war memory, Jones notes the absence and thus the irony of the dearth of studies about wartime addiction.

Weaving together difficult-to-negotiate asylum records as well as several underutilized medical archives, this project reaches across an interdisciplinary range of fields, including disability studies, the history of psychology, the history of memory and trauma, and medical ethics. Having used the case studies of nearly 150 opiate-addicted veterans, Jones explains how the historically recent digitization of so many 19th-century primary sources and his ability to cross-reference individuals in case studies with hospital databases made such a synthesis possible.  The opportunity to research the long-term effects of the postwar crisis provided insights not only into modern understandings of human psychology but also into the moral interpretation of psychological and physical debility.  Jones enters into the complex discussion of addiction as it was referred to by 19th-century observers as a form of ‘slavery,’ and he notes how this slavery undermined veterans’ health, wealth, and family intimacies.  With particularly new and incisive data sets, he shows how the children of addicted veterans were consigned to impoverished lives themselves.

Because many addicts were unable to work, they were subject to cultural assault in ways that exposed the limits of contemporaneous gender, race, and class identities, especially for those who were unable to hide the visible effects of their addictions.  Jones suggests that addiction was a gendered and raced phenomenon that fractured conventional notions about manhood, effeminizing men as weak, shiftless, and unworthy of citizenship—arguments that had been deployed to restrict the movements of women and blacks throughout the 19th century.  Not only were addicted veterans excluded from the celebration of American manhood that followed the war, but they might find themselves incarcerated in mental institutions or barred from residing in soldiers’ homes and applying for the pensions made available to throngs of able-bodied men.  In recounting the history of how patent medicine sales worked to ensnare addicts in regimes of restoring manhood and self-respect and of inebriety clinics that promised to cure inmates of their addictions (one even established by former Union Surgeon General William Hammond), Jones uncovers new information about veterans’ attempts to defend themselves and physicians’ reactions to the serious charges leveled against them. One consequence of the wartime over-prescribing of opiates to address the pain of so many sick and wounded bodies was that surgeons sought to reframe addiction as a medicalized affliction rather than an individual surrendering of character.

Ultimately “Opium Slavery” breaks new ground by constructing an innovative model of war disability that serves as a complement to brief recent studies by Sarah Handley-Cousins, Allison Johnson, and Guy Hasegawa. What separates Jones’s work from these others is his deep immersion into surgical perspectives that redefined addiction as a psychological impairment and not a life choice in the wake of the Civil War. This research has the power to broaden understandings of today’s opioid crisis by contextualizing it in another historical period, and it opens the study of military trauma to wider inspection in the worlds of medicine and psychology.  On its way to becoming an important monograph, “Opium Slavery” presents original scholarship based on an impressive and creative use of primary and secondary sources.

James Marten

James Marten is professor of history at Marquette University and a past president of the Society of Civil War Historians. The author, editor, or co-editor of over twenty books, including Buying and Selling Civil War Memory in Gilded Age America, Co-edited, with Caroline E. Janney (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2021); America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014), and Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

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