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The Invention of Addiction in Early Modern England

Fri, April 1, 3:30 to 5:00pm, Park Plaza, Fourth Floor, Tremont Room

Abstract

Concepts of addiction are linked to, and sometimes defined by, intoxication, yet despite a recent focus on early modern intoxication scant attention has been paid to the emergence of early addiction models. This paper looks at the translation of Classical Roman legal terminology, specifically ‘addico’, into the fifteenth century, and the transformation of concepts and uses of the term addiction across the early modern period. It utilizes close reading and analysis of early modern dictionaries, in conjunction with linguistic analysis using corpora and other digital technologies. Despite the Roman derivation of the English word, there is evidence that concepts of 'addiction', although related, were always distinct from those of the Latin 'addico'. This suggests a coherent conceptualization of the meaning of addiction, predating modern addiction models by several centuries.

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