The role of Opium in18th Century’s BritishEmpire.Guillermo Pineda
EssayQuestion: What role did the production andcommerce of opium played during the 18thcentury to strengthen the British Empirescontrol over India?Subject: OpiumTheme: The role that opium played during the18th Century to strengthen the power of theBritish Empire in India.
17th Century tradeChina opened to foreign trade under the QingDynasty via Guangzhou (Canton). By 1690s, traders from the British East India Company began shipping Tea to supply British demand! Chinese were only interested in silver and not in British commodities.WHAT TO DO?
British traders’ solution Opium became THE high-value commodity for which China was not self sufficient. The British traders had been purchasing small amounts of opium from India for trade since Ralph Fitch first visited in the mid-sixteenth century.1 Trade in opium was standardized, with production of balls of raw opium, 1.1 to 1.6 kilograms, 30% water content, wrapped in poppy leaves and petals, shipped in chests of 60-65 kilograms.1 Chests of opium were sold in auctions in Calcutta with the understanding that the independent purchasers would then smuggle it into China.1. Carl A. Trocki (2002). Opium as a commodity and the Chinese drug plague.
What happened? 1760s:1,000 chests of opium (each weighing 63.64 Kg.) were smuggled into China 1800s: gradually increased to 4,000 chests. 1824: increase dramatically to over12,000 chests. 1830: rising to 19,000 chests. 1835: 30,000 chests. 1838: 40,000 chests (2,500 tons of opium) in 1838.(2)The British encouraged poppy growing. By the end of the 1830s (lessthan a century later) the opium trade was already, and was to remain,"the worlds most valuable single commodity trade of the nineteenthcentury.” (3)(2) Michael Greenberg, British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-1842 (Monthly Review Press; Cambridge University Press 1951) p.232.(3) Frederic Wakeman, "The Canton Trade and the Opium War” p. 172. cited in John K. Fairbanks. The Creation of the Treaty System.The Cambridge History of China vol. 10 Part 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1992) p. 213.
Opium Trade 45000 40000 40000 35000 30000 30000 25000 20000 19000 Opium Trade 15000 12000 10000 5000 4000 1000 0 1760 1800 1824 1830 1835 1838• A chest of opium was worth nearly $1,000 in 1800.• In 1980, 2,000 tons of opium supplied all legal and illegal uses. By 2002, the opium production was 5,000.• In 2002 the price for one kilogram of opium was $300 for the farmer, $800 for purchasers in Afghanistan, and $16,000 on the streets of Europe before
Bellin, J.N. Old Antique map of the Gulf of Bengal] Carte du Golphe deBengale. Amsterdam, c. 1760. http://www.antiquemaps-
1st they needed to control Awadh and the territories to the Southeast Awadh was known as the granary of India and was important strategically for the control of the Doab, the fertile plain between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It was a wealthy kingdom, able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans. Ruled by the Nawabs who were a Persian Shia Muslim dynasty from Nishapur.
British Action I - 1757 Battle of PlasseyAllies: British Army leaded by Lord Robert Clive (Clive ofIndia) + Mir Jafar (Became the Nawab of Bengal, Biharand Orissa)Against: Siraj ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab ofBengal Subah and the French East India CompanyEffect: Company rule over South Asia which expanded overmuch of the Indies. The battle took place at Palashi, Bengal (Plassey is the anglicised version of Palashi), on the river banks of the Bhagirathi River, about 150 km north of Calcutta, near Murshidabad, then capital of undivided Bengal. 950 British soldiers + 2,100 indian sepoy; against 35,000 Indian infantries, 18,000 cavalry men and 50 French artillerymen
Robert Clive and Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, 1757, by Francis Hayman. National Portrait GLondon.
British Action II - 1764 Battle of Buxar 7,000 soldiers under the command of the British East India Company (857 British, 5,297 Indian sepoys and 918 Indian cavalry) against 40,000 combined armies of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal; Shuja-ud-Daula Nawab of Awadh; and Shah Alam II, the Mughal Emperor.4 The battle was a decisive victory for the British East India Company that got the control for the Company to collect and manage the revenues of almost 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2) (Modern: West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and part of Bangladesh)4Ness and Stahl. Western Imperialist Armies in Asia. Comparative Studies in Society andHistory.
Afterwards,The British East India Company gained the power to act asdiwan of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. This allowed thecompany to pursue a monopoly on opium production andexport in India, to encourage riots to cultivate the cashcrops of indigo and opium with cash advances, and toprohibit the "hoarding" of rice.This strategy led to the increase of the land tax to 50% ofthe value of crops, the starvation of ten million people inthe Bengal famine of 1770, and the doubling of East IndiaCompany profits by 1777.Beginning in 1773 the British government began enactingoversight of the companys operations, culminating in theestablishment of British India in response to the Indian
Bengal opium was highly prized, commanding twice theprice of the domestic Chinese product, which wasregarded as inferior in quality.By the end of the 18th Century , the East India Companywould become one of the largest companies in theworld, with a private navy, army and civil service largerthan that of some small countries.In due course its import duties supplied 10% of Britain’snational income.Apart from Opium they traded cloth from India, tea fromChina and then from its own plantations in India.By 1765, under the leadership of John Calland they hadalready 17,000 troops in Bengal. 50years later theCompanys armies in India consisted of a quarter of amillion men, although the vast majority were sepoy.
Global Effects in the 18 th Century18th century expansion was also happening across theAtlantic.The rising demand of tea pushed for a higher demand ofsugar + sugar required plantations + which required slavelabour.Tea imports carried by the East India Company rose from 9million lbs. in the 1720s to 37 million by the 1750s.In 1700 the British imported 23,000 tons of sugar. By 1800the import level was 245,000 tons, much of which went intotea.So, the demand from the Carribean plantations was clearlysufficient to generate its own slave-trading companies andsell opium to China in order to reduce its deficit.
Global Effects in the 18 th Century by the end of theOpium stopped being a British business18th Century. Competition came from the United States, which began to compete in Guangzhou (Canton) selling Turkish opium in the 1820s. Portuguese traders also brought opium from the independent Malwa states of western India, although by 1820 the British were able to restrict this trade by charging "pass duty" on the opium when it was forced to pass through Bombay to reach an entrepot. Despite drastic penalties and continued prohibition of opium until 1860, opium importation rose steadily from 200 chests per year under Yongzheng to 1,000 under Qianlong, 4,000 under Jiaqing, and 30,000 under Daoguang. The illegal sale of opium became one of the worlds most valuable single commodity trades, and has been called "the most long continued and
By the 19th CenturyIn response to the ever-growing number of Chinesepeople becoming addicted to opium, Daoguang ofthe Qing Dynasty took strong action to halt theimport of opium.In 1838 the Chinese Commissioner Lin Zexudestroyed 20,000 chests of opium in Guangzhou(Canton).The British, who were not willing to replace thecheap opium with costly silver, began the FirstOpium War in 1840, winning Hong Kong and tradeconcessions in the first of a series of UnequalTreaties.
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