Drug smuggler nation

Narcotics and the Netherlands, 1920-1995

By Stephen Snelders

Drug smuggler nation

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5139-1
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2021
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Security (National & International), HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, HISTORY / Europe / Western, Drugs Trade / Drug Trafficking, Netherlands, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000


Why did the international drug regulatory regime of the twentieth century fail to stop an explosive increase in trade and consumption of illegal drugs? This study investigates the histories of smugglers and criminal entrepreneurs in the Netherlands who succeeded in turning the country into the so-called 'Colombia of Europe' or, 'the international drug supermarket'.

Increasing state regulations and interventions led to the proliferation of a 'hydra' of small, anarchic groups and networks ideally suited to circumvent the enforcement of regulation. Networks of smugglers and suppliers of heroin, cocaine, cannabis, XTC, and other drugs were organized without a strict formal hierarchy and based on personal relations and cultural affinities rather than on institutional arrangements. These networks created a thriving underground industry of illegal synthetic drug laboratories and indoor cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands itself. Their operations were made possible and developed because of the deep historical social and cultural 'embeddedness' of criminal anarchy in Dutch society.

Using examples from the rich history of drug smuggling, Drug smuggler nation investigates the deeper and hidden grounds of the illegal drug trade, and its effects on our drug policies.


1 Introduction: the drug regulatory regime vs. criminal anarchy
2 The interwar period
3 Global perils I: Chinese and Greek drug smugglers
4 Cannabis, counterculture, and criminals: The rise of cannabis smuggling
5 Global perils II: Chinese triads, Turkish families, and heroin
6 The expansion of the cannabis trade after 1976
7 Global perils III: Colombian syndicates and cocaine
8 The floodgates of criminal anarchy: Synthetic drugs and subverting the state
9 Conclusion

Appendix: Graphs of arrests and seizures



Stephen Snelders is a Research Fellow in the Freudenthal Institute at Utrecht University

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