What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

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Updated 20 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

During the late 19th century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. 

The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. 

Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule — how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition — that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders — uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. 

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials.


What We Are Reading Today: Trigonometric delights by Eli Maor

Updated 10 April 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Trigonometric delights by Eli Maor

Trigonometry has a reputation as a dry, difficult branch of mathematics, a glorified form of geometry complicated by tedious computation. 

In Trigonometric Delights, Eli Maor dispels this view. Rejecting the usual descriptions of sine, cosine, and their trigonometric relatives, he brings the subject to life in a compelling blend of history, biography, and mathematics. 

From the proto-trigonometry of the Egyptian pyramid builders and the first true trigonometry developed by Greek astronomers, to the epicycles and hypocycles of the toy Spirograph, Maor presents 

both a survey of the main elements of trigonometry and a unique account of its vital contribution to science and social growth. 

A tapestry of stories, curiosities, insights, and illustrations, Trigonometric Delights irrevocably changes how we see this essential mathematical discipline.