Opium: History notes

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:30 pm

Britain and China fought two wars (1839^-2 and 1856-60) over opium trading rights that have come to be known as the Opium Wars. During the 1700s, the British established a lucrative monopoly over the opium trade. This trade continued even after Chinese emperor Kia King’s 1799 ban on opium. The First Opium War erupted when the Chinese government attempted to suppress the opium trade through drastic prohibitions. Imperial Chinese commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu seized or destroyed huge amounts of opium, including stocks owned by British traders. The result was a Chinese payment of an indemnity of more than 21 million silver dollars and Hong Kong being ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. Hong Kong quickly became a center of the growing opium trade around which a substantial shipping business evolved. Tensions remained high between the countries. The Second Opium War (also known as the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French War in China) broke out after a British-flagged ship, the Arrow, was impounded by China. France joined Britain in this effort after the murder of a French missionary. China was again defeated, resulting in another large indemnity and the legalization of opium under the Treaty of Tientsin.

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