The Opium Wars

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The Opium Wars

Bertrand Russell once said, power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with habit. The addiction to power is equivalent to a drug, once you get used to the same amount you want more. In 1840, England and China had two different ideas on what trading and power meant to them. England wanted China to see them as equivalent trading partners and China was the main exporter at the time. Before the trade of Opium started, Britain was trading silver for silk and tea; although, after a while England had no more silver to give to China. In order to stay close with the main empire and be seen as an equivalent trading partner, England traded Opium which was grown in the Indian subcontinent and then shipped to China. The trade of Opium escalated the violent confrontation between China and Britain, which resulted in short term as well as long lasting effects.

After receiving the drug for a while, China’s government and society started to revolve around the effects following the addiction. The drug’s effects hit most of China, including the government and all of society. How could one drug have the ability to conduct this much damage? According to Frank Dikötter, “Opium could be alternatively or simultaneously a medical product, a recreational item, a badge of social distinction and a symbol of elite culture [then transformed into the most addictive narcotic with the ability to take down an entire nation]” (46). The drug changed how China was seen, now Opium was looked at as a sign of wealth and power. If you were able to obtain this drug then you had the upper hand in society. Just as in trading, Britain wanted the upper hand in the exchange with the rest of the world. In Travis Hanes’ study of the...

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...ountries, the small drug of opium still managed to leave it’s tracks for all of the world to learn about.

Works Cited

Dikötter, Frank, Lars Peter Laamann, and Xun Zhou. Narcotic culture: a history of drugs in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Print, accessed 17 February 2014.

Hanes, William Travis, and Frank Sanello. Opium wars: the addiction of one empire and the corruption of another. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2002. Print. Accessed 23 February 2014

Lin Wen-chung kung cheng-shu, vol. 2, roll 3. This letter was dated August 27, 1839.

Merwin, Samuel. Drugging a nation, the story of China and the opium curse; a personal investigation, during an extended tour, of the present conditions of the opium trade in China and its effects upon the nation,. New York: F.H. Revell company, 1908. Print, accessed 4 March 2014.
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