The Sumerians referred to it as Hul Gil, the "joy plant.
A Rigged International Order? Starting in in the mids, the British began trading opium grown in India in exchange for silver from Chinese merchants. Opium — an addictive drug that today is refined into heroin — was illegal in England, but was used in Chinese traditional medicine.
However, recreational use was illegal and not widespread. That changed as the British began shipping in tons of the drug using a combination of commercial loopholes and outright smuggling to get around the ban.
Chinese officials taking their own cut abetted the practice. American ships carrying Turkish-grown opium joined in the narcotics bonanza in the early s. Consumption of opium in China skyrocketed, as did profits. The Daoguang Emperor became alarmed by the millions of drug addicts — and the flow of silver leaving China.
As is often the case, the actions of a stubborn idealist brought the conflict to a head. In the newly appointed Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu instituted laws banning opium throughout China.
He arrested 1, dealers, and seized the crates of the drug already in Chinese harbors and even on ships at sea. He then had them all destroyed. That amounted to 2. Lin even wrote a poem apologizing to the sea gods for the pollution. War would resolve the debt. But the first shots were fired when the Chinese objected to the British attacking one of their own merchant ships.
Chinese authorities had indicated they would allow trade to resume in non-opium goods. Lin Zexu even sent a letter to Queen Victoria pointing out that as England had a ban on the opium trade, they were justified in instituting one too. It never reached her, but eventually did appear in the Sunday Times.
Instead, the Royal Navy established a blockade around Pearl Bay to protest the restriction of free trade … in drugs.
Two British ships carrying cotton sought to run the blockade in November When the Royal Navy fired a warning shot at the second, The Royal Saxon, the Chinese sent a squadron of war junks and fire-rafts to escort the merchant. HMS Hyacinth joined in. One of the Chinese ships exploded and three more were sunk.
Their return fire wounded one British sailor. Seven months later, a full-scale expeditionary force of 44 British ships launched an invasion of Canton.
The British had steam ships, heavy cannon, Congreve rockets and infantry equipped with rifles capable of accurate long range fire. Antiquated Chinese warships were swiftly destroyed by the Royal Navy.
Chinese armies suffered defeat after defeat. When the Qing sued for peace inthe British could set their own terms. The Treaty of Nanjing stipulated that Hong Kong would become a British territory, and that China would be forced to establish five treaty ports in which British traders could trade anything they wanted with anybody they wanted to.
A later treaty forced the Chinese to formally recognize the British as equals and grant their traders favored status. More War, More Opium: Imperialism was on the upswing by the mids.
France muscled into the treaty port business as well in The British soon wanted even more concessions from China — unrestricted trade at any port, embassies in Beijing and an end to bans on selling opium in the Chinese mainland.The First Opium War (Chinese: 第一次鴉片戰爭), also known as the Opium War or the Anglo-Chinese War, was a series of military engagements fought between the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice in China.
Most opium came from Turkey or India, and in its import was forbidden by the imperial government. Despite this restriction, the opium trade continued to flourish.
The British and French renew their hostilities against China in the Second Opium War. In the aftermath of the struggle, China is forced to pay another indemnity. The importation of opium is legalized. Julia Lovell is Senior Lecturer in Chinese History at Birbeck, University of London and is the author of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China (Picador, ). The Opium Wars: The Bloody Conflicts That Destroyed Imperial China. And drives its anger over the South China Sea today.
Privately owned vessels of many countries, including the United States, made huge profits from the growing number of Chinese addicts. Learn more about the First and Second Opium Wars between China and Great Britain.
What were the Opium Wars, and why did they happen?
Learn more about the First and Second Opium Wars between China and Great Britain. Humanities › History & Culture The First and Second Opium Wars Share Flipboard Email. [Victorian Web Home —> Victorian Political History —> Victorian Social History —> The British Empire —> Opium Wars] The Opium Trade, Seventh through Nineteenth Centuries he Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars were the direct result of China's isolationalist and exclusionary trade policy with the West.
The First Opium War was fought from March 18, to August 29, and was also known as the First Anglo-Chinese War. 69 British troops and approximately 18, Chinese soldiers perished.
As a result of the war, Britain won trade rights, access to five treaty ports, and Hong Kong. The first Opium War (–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China.