Opium and the Opium Wars

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Opium and the Opium Wars
The Western Traders
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Community of traders in Guangzhou
Trade tea and silk through a monopoly
The trade expands rapidly in 1830s
Traders want
– End to the monopoly
– To be allowed to trade in other ports
– A fixed rate of tax
Lin Zexu
• Proposed ending opium trade to solve
currency problems
• Understood the Western traders as pirates
• 1839 arrived in Guangdong
– Destroyed opium
– Imprisoned traders in their compound to make
them promise not to trade opium again
→ CRISIS
The Opium War 1840
• British fleet sent from India
• British troops beseiged Guangzhou then
paid off
• British fleet sailed up the coast and
threatened Tianjin
→Treaty of Nanjing
The Treaty of Nanjing 1842
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End of the Cohong monopoly
Open 5 more ports to foreign trade
New system of fixed tax rates
Hong Kong ceded to Britain
The Qing made a large payment to the
British
Problems after the Treaty of
Nanjing
• The Chinese saw it as a rebellion that had
been pacified
• The British saw it as a war they had won
• Factional disputes at court about what to
do
• Trouble in Guangzhou because some
people had lost out from the treaty
→ The Second Opium War
The Treaty of Tianjin 1858
• Ten more ports opened to foreign trade
• Foreigners allowed to travel in China
• Chinese internal customs duties fixed for
foreigners
• Extraterritoriality ie foreign law used for
foreigners
• Foreign diplomats allowed to reside in
Beijing
Educational images of the Opium War from the People’s Republic of
China’s Southern Daily (Nanfang ribao) in 2004
Interpretations
1. Imperialism
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J.A. Hobson and Vladimir Lenin
Argument very influential in 1910s and 20s
2. Impact of the West
– John K. Fairbank
– China as the centre of the world
3. Spread of psychoactive substances
Opium and the Spread of Psychoactive Substances
• Listed from 8th C as a medical drug
• Recreational consumption spread from the
Philippines in the 17th C
• Large scale imports tied to British
consumption of tea
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