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220095 History of Poisons (S) (SoSe 2019)

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On its website, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines a poison as follows: “A poison is anything that can harm someone if it is 1) used in the wrong way, 2) used by the wrong person, or 3) used in the wrong amount.” (https://poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/poison-info/what-is-a-poison/index.html) This definition is focusing on the biomedical, harmful effect of poison, implying that this effect is always unwanted (“wrong”). Of course, that is not always true since the harmful effect is sometimes exactly what is wanted from such a substance. There are not only poisoning murders or dangerous food adulterations but also legal death penalties or pesticides. Furthermore, it can sometimes be very controversial when exactly a “wrong” amount is reached as can be seen in current debates about nitrogen oxides.

What substance is a poison and when? Which use of poisons are legitimate, which are not? The answers to these questions are dependent on the social, political, legal, and of course scientific context. In this seminar, we will explore the history of poisons. Focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries, this topic will be approached from four intertwined angles: the history of crime, the history of regulation, the history of occupational and public health, and environmental history.

Literaturangaben

Claas Kirchhelle (2018): "Toxic Tales—Recent Histories of Pollution, Poisoning, and Pesticides (ca. 1800–2010)", in: NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 26, 213-229.

José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez, Ximo Guillem-Llobat (2016): "Following Poisons in Society and Culture (1800-2000): A Review of Current Literature", in: Actes d'Historia de la Ciéncia i de la Técnica 9, 9-36.

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