The First Opium War

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Introduction Evidence from contemporary newspapers and other sources suggest that by the mid nineteenth-century England was beginning to realize the depth of its opium problem. Opium had been introduced by the Arabs around the sixteenth-century, England began to seriously trade it around the late seventeenth- century. English citizens, by this time, through its exploits, were using the drug for medical reasons. However, most of these new cures all used opium in some form. No matter in which, form it was used, opium had only one effect. It gave a feeling of euphoria. From the opium pill to the plaster or its alkaloids it was a highly addictive drug, a new drug free from government constrains and open to public sale. In the early years opium was merely another piece of cargo to be traded. The Beginnings of The Problem Opium had first arrived in London as a new medicinal trade product. It was new, compact, easily transported, and non-perishable. Trade with China proved very profitable and flourished for more than twenty years uninterrupted, until in 1835 China passed its first laws prohibiting the importation of opium (1). In the years following this prohibition, England responded simply by shifting the drop off points to other ports in China. China resisted these efforts, by England, to continue trade and began attacking their ships. These acts were seen as aggressive in the eyes of the English and the first opium war resulted. The war ended with the treaty of Nanking, which ceded China to Britain. The second opium war between 1856 and 1858 ended with the treaty of Tientsin (2). These two wars were prime examples of commercial imperialism, not only through the opening of treaty ports but through British control of Chinese customs which the 1842 treaty established, and continuing opium trade without restraint (3). All these acts on the part of British and the

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