27 Jul: Raleigh’s Tobacco Adventures

Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco back to Britain from Virginia on 27th July 1586 – and, in so doing, triggered a craze for smoking, which at the time was considered a tonic for halitosis, and even a cure for cancer.

Despite Queen Elizabeth I being an advocate for the new drug, it didn’t take long for the anti-tobacco movement to kick into gear – with King James I writing a treatise against smoking by 1604.

In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion revisit the phenomenon of ‘Dry Drunkenness’; explain why Eton’s schoolboys were prescribed tobacco with their breakfast; and reveal what happened to Raleigh’s head after he was executed…

Further Reading:

• Bob Newhart’s Walter Raleigh sketch (1962):  

• ‘“This vile custome”: a history of tobacco’s medical interpretations’ (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh): https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/heritage/vile-custome-history-tobaccos-medical-interpretations

• ‘Discovery of velvet bag may solve gory mystery of Walter Raleigh’s missing head’ (The Guardian, 2018): https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/oct/28/walter-raleigh-bag-severed-head-gory-mystery

We had EVEN MORE to say about Sir Walter Raleigh and his tobacco fixation. To hear bonus material this and every week*, support the show NOW at Patreon.com/Retrospectors! (*top two tiers only)