The Long Postwar and the Politics of Penicillin: Early Circulation and Smuggling in Spain, 1944-1954


  • María Jesús Santesmases Center for Human and Social Sciences, CSIC, Madrid


Penicillin in Spain , Post Second World War, Smuggling , Black market, Bureaucracy


 In this paper I explore the early circulation of penicillin. I review the early distribution in Spain of a scarce product, reflect on the available sources about the illegal penicillin trade and discuss some cases of smuggling. I argue the early distribution of penicillin involved time and geography, a particular chronology of post Second World War geopolitics. Penicillin practices and experiences belong to this period, in a dictatorship that tolerated smuggling and illegal trade of other products, some, like penicillin, produced in neighbouring countries. As a commodity that crossed borders, penicillin, transiting between the law and hidden trade, between countries and social domains – between war fronts and from a war front to an urban site to be sold – reveals practices of the early years of prosperity in the 1950s. These transits were permanent tests of a society based on taxes and exchanges, law and bureaucracy, control, discipline and the creation of standards.