Lectures

May 2, 6:00pm,  2019 Percy Skuy Lecture
London Rubber: Trials and Tribulations presented by Jessica Borge, PhD

Jessica Borge

From humble beginnings wholesaling at a small tobacco shop in 1915, the London Rubber Company became Great Britain’s biggest producer and exporter of disposable rubber condoms in the post-war period. But for LRC, the condom monopoly was not enough. Buoyed by the success of Durex and other house brands, LRC pursued domination in the burgeoning women’s market. However, when oral contraceptives came along in the 1960s,  LR was caught in a bind between defending condoms against the new cultural domination of ‘the pill’, and claiming a segment of the pharmaceutical birth control market for itself. But could LRC have it all?

Join Jessica Borge for a fascinating journey into the unlikely beginnings and surprising activities of what was once Britain’s biggest ever condom maker.

Jessica is a PostDoc researcher within the ERC BodyCapital project working on a project entitled “When the Consumer Comes Last: Stakeholders in the British Contraceptive Screen 1955-1995”. The project seeks to uncover previously under-examined [document and televisual] source material, and reflects the intersection of Jessica’s research interest in markets and mass media. As part of her PhD research, Jessica was awarded an AHRC IPS Fellowship with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC, wherein she studied the contraceptive object collection. She was awarded the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Van Foreest Prize the same year.

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Temporary Exhibit

Tracing Addiction: Pre-Victorian Knowledge of the Opium Poppy

Illustration from Medical Botany, by Stephenson and Churchill, 1831.


Papaver somniferum
, or Opium Poppy, has been recognized for its use as a narcotic for hundreds of years. This exhibit traces five centuries of opium addiction and poppy’s use in medicine, and explores the relationships between knowledge, experimentation, and medical necessity. Selected works from the Dittrick Museum’s collection of Herbals are on display, and vibrant illustrations and passages illustrate the change in opium attitudes from “miracle drug” to “dangerous poison.” With the United States’ current heroin epidemic, this exhibit provides audiences with a haunting look at the centuries-old magnitude of opioid addiction.