Building the world's supply of quinine: Dutch colonialism and the origins of a global pharmaceutical industry

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Abstract

Quinine, a naturally occurring alkaloid from the Cinchona tree, was one of the first drugs produced and sold by a global pharmaceutical industry during the nineteenth century. Factories in Europe and North America dominated the manufacturing industry, and between 1890 and 1940, Cinchona plantations on Java supplied most of the bark for the quinine pharmaceutical business. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Dutch colonial state kept a hands-off approach to the Cinchona enterprises, in keeping with its liberal orientation. But the persistent low-price for bark, which led to the near ruin of the Cinchona planters, eventually pushed the colonial state to actively protect the Cinchona plantations. Colonial officials sought to stabilize the colonial Cinchona export-business by encouraging the integration of the quinine industry on a global scale. Most important was the colonial state's sponsorship in 1913 of the Quinine Agreement, establishing a set price for Cinchona bark, which created the world's first pharmaceutical cartel. In the interwar period, an alliance of Dutch government officials, planters, scientists, doctors and drug-makers, working in both the motherland and the colony, actively promoted the expansion of quinine consumption, as well as the merit of the Quinine Agreement, which they argued supplied guaranteed a steady supply of quinine, all for the wellbeing of global humanity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-18
Number of pages11
JournalEndeavour
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science

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