Tag Archives: drugs

New book on drug smuggling and the Netherlands out in 2020

The past years I have been working on a new history of drug smuggling and the Netherlands in the twentieth century, in the context of the project The Imperative of Regulation funded by NWO, the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research. I have now come to an agreement with Manchester University Press to publish a book on the subject in the course of 2020.

The book intends to show how and why the Netherlands developed in the course of the twentieth century into a central hub of the international illegal drug trade. The book details the responses of smugglers to the state regulation of the market and the increasing demand of consumers, and develops a model of ‘criminal anarchy’ to explain the successes of the illegal drug trade. By using a long-term historical perspective on ‘the Dutch experience’ the book further elaborates and modifies the criminological concept of ‘disorganized crime’. It situates ‘criminal anarchy’ within Dutch society: historically, socially and culturally embedded in both native and migrant communities with their own historical traditions.

Historical investigation leads to the conclusion that when drug policy focuses on the fight against the supply side law enforcement will win the occasional battle, but is unlikely to win the war against drugs. Rather the reverse is the case: fighting the supply side only stimulates the proliferation characteristic of criminal anarchy. Consumer demand is uncompromising when there is no access to an alternative legal supply of drugs.

I will unfold the patterns of criminal anarchy narrating and discussing among others smuggler-users, Sixties idealists turned smugglers, and criminal entrepreneurs. The book details the activities of native Dutch, Chinese, Greek, and other smugglers before and after the Second World War; the rise of the Dutch cannabis trade and cultivation and its global connections; the Chinese, Turkish and Kurdish heroin trade; the Colombian cocaine syndicates; and the rise of the synthetic drug industry and the subversion of the state by Dutch criminal networks in the south and elsewhere in the country.

Drugs in het Derde Rijk

De Duitse schrijver Norman Ohler heeft in het voetspoor van schrijvers en historici als Werner Pieper, Peter Steinkamp en als ik zo onbescheiden mag zijn mijzelf het drugsgebruik in Nazi-Duitsland verder uitgespit. Zijn boek Der totale Rausch werd in Duitsland een bestseller. In september zal een Nederlandse vertaling verschijnen bij uitgeverij Luiting-Sijthoff in Amsterdam. Op verzoek van de uitgever heb ik voor deze vertaling een nawoord geschreven, waarin ik de situatie rond drugs in Nederland onder de Duitse bezetting bespreek. (Zie ook mijn post op de Alcohol and Drugs History Society-website.)


From pharmaceutical companies to criminal networks

This is the title of my own research project in the NWO sponsored research program The Imperative of Regulation: Local and (trans-)national dynamics of drug regulatory regimes in the Netherlands since the Second World War. I will be starting on 1 October as a research fellow at the history and philosophy of science section at the Faculty of Science, Utrecht University (Freudenthal Institute, whose director Toine Pieters is also a director of the research program).

The idea is to cover the tremendous changes in the supply-side of the psychoactive drug market, from the looted stocks of the German Wehrmacht and the limited supplies of the pharmaceutical companies in 1945 to the shift to an Internet based market in illicit drugs 70 years later. In this period the Netherlands continued its century-old tradition as a major producer, transporter and consumer of psychoactive drugs. We are not only focusing on illegal drugs in this project, but also on the shifts and transitions between legal and illegal use, and between ‘street’ drugs and drugs on medical prescription.

Interestingly, on today’s digital silk roads both are sold without government control and even with a libertarian or anarcho-capitalist justification. According to an interesting essay by American political scientist Henry Farrell this attempt to create control-free drug markets (at least, without control by the state) has only led to other forms of regulation, including the ultimate enforcing mechanism of all control: violence. ‘The Silk Road might have started as a libertarian experiment, but it was doomed to end as a fiefdom run by pirate kings’, Farrell writes.

The whole idea of a control-free drug market is of course a historical fiction and unravelling the historical dynamics underlying patterns and mechanisms of evolving drug markets will be a major aim of my project. tumblr_lu76t3dPIf1qmr448o1_r1_500