From Greek philosophers to former Russian spies, the use of poison as a means of ending a life - whether through assassination, murder, suicide, or execution - has a history stretching back over 2,000 years. Even before Socrates accepted his fate by drinking hemlock, countless people must have died as a result of ingesting naturally occurring poisons. And yet poisonous materials often also have beneficial properties: hydrogen fluoride, for example, is highly toxic to humans, but is also a vital component in the production of herbicides, pharmaceuticals, and fluorescent light bulbs. "Poison: a Social History" explores the nature of toxicity and reveals how poison has played a crucial and often unheralded role - for good and for bad - in human history. As well as examining a range of poisonous materials, it also contains case studies of famous, and infamous, poisonings.