Introduction•The Opium Wars, also known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars, divided intothe First Opium War from 1839 to 1842 and the Second Opium War from1856 to 1860 between China under the Qing Dynasty and the BritishEmpire.•Canton System which restricted trade to one port and did not allowforeign entrance to China, the British East India Company faced a tradeimbalance in favour of China and invested heavily in opium production toredress the balance.•Aware both of the drain of silver and the growing numbers of addicts,the Daoguang Emperor demanded action.•In 1838, the Emperor sent Lin Zexu to Guangzhou where he quicklyarrested Chinese opium dealers and summarily demanded that foreignfirms turn over their stocks.•When they refused, Lin stopped trade altogether and placed the foreignresidents under virtual siege, eventually forcing the merchants tosurrender their opium to be destroyed.
•In response, the British government sent expeditionary forces from India whichravaged the Chinese coast and dictated the terms of settlement.•The Treaty of Nanking not only opened the way for further opium trade, butceded territory including Hong Kong, unilaterally fixed Chinese tariffs at a lowrate, granted extraterritorial rights to foreigners in China.• When the court still refused to accept foreign ambassadors and obstructed thetrade clauses of the treaties, disputes over the treatment of British merchants inChinese ports and on the seas led to the Second Opium War and the Treaty ofTientsin.
Prelude to First Opium War•Within the Chinese mandarinate there was an ongoing debate over legalisingthe opium trade itself.•However, legalization was repeatedly rejected and instead, in 1838 thegovernment sentenced native drug traffickers to death.•Emperor appointed a new strict Confucian commissioner, Lin Zexu to controlthe opium trade at the port of Canton.•His first course of action was to enforce the imperial demand that there be apermanent halt to drug shipments into China.•On 27 March 1839 Charles Elliot, British Superintendent of Trade agreed that allBritish subjects should turn over their opium to him.•In a departure from his brief, he promised that the crown would compensatethem for the lost opium.•Unable to allocate funds for an illegal drug but pressed for compensation bythe merchants, this liability is cited as one reason for the decision to force a war.
• When the British learned of what was taking place in Canton, ascommunications between these two parts of the world took months at thistime, they sent a large British Indian army, which arrived in June 1840.•British military superiority drew on newly applied technology.•British warships wreaked havoc on coastal towns; the steam ship Nemesis wasable to move against the winds and tides and support a gun platform with veryheavy guns.•In addition, the British troops were the first to be armed withmodern muskets and cannons which fired more rapidly and with greateraccuracy than the Qing firearms and artillery.•After the British took Canton, they sailed up the Yangtze and took the taxbarges, a devastating blow to the Empire.
•In 1842, the Qing authorities sued for peace, which concluded with the Treaty ofNanking negotiated in August of that year and ratified in 1843.•In the treaty, China was forced to pay an indemnity to Britain, open four ports toBritain, and cede Hong Kong to Queen Victoria.•In the supplementary Treaty of the Bogue, the Qing empire also recognised Britain asan equal to China and gave British subjects extraterritorial privileges in treaty ports.•In 1844, the United States and France concluded similar treaties with China, the Treatyof Wanghia and Treaty of Whampoa respectively.
•The Chinese authorities were reluctant to keep to the terms of the 1842 Treaty ofNanking.•To protect those Chinese merchants who were friendly to them at Hong Kong, theBritish granted their ships British registration in the hope that the Chineseauthorities would not interfere with vessels which carried the British flag.•In October 1856, the Chinese authorities in Canton seized a vessel called the"Arrow" which had been engaged in piracy.•The "Arrow" had formerly been registered as a British ship and was even still flyingthe British flag.•The British consul in Canton demanded the immediate release of the crew and anapology for the insult to the British flag•The crew were released, but an apologywas not given. In reprisal, the Britishgovernor in Hong Kong ordered warships tobombard Canton.
•The bombardment of Canton was a breach of international law. The governorof Hong Kong had acted rashly without consulting London.•However, the British Prime Minister, Palmerston, supported the actions of hisofficials who claimed to be upholding British prestige and avenging the insult tothe flag.•Moreover, Palmerston was keen to force the Chinese into accepting full-scaletrade with Britain, whether they wanted to or not.•In the British general election of March 1857 which Palmerston won with anincreased majority, he now felt able to press British claims more vigorously.•The French were also eager to be involved after their envoy, Baron Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros, seemingly had his demands ignored.•A strong Anglo-French force under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour occupiedCanton (December 1857), then cruised north to capture briefly the Taku fortsnear Tientsin (May 1858).
•Negotiations between China, Britain, France, the USA and Russia led to the TientsinTreaties of June 26–29, 1858, which theoretically brought peace•China agreed to open more treaty ports, to legalize opium importation, to establisha maritime customs service with foreign inspection and to allow foreign legations atPeking and missionaries in the interior.•China soon abrogated the Anglo-French treaties and refused to allow foreigndiplomats into Peking.•On June 25, 1859 British Admiral Sir James Hope bombarded the forts guarding themouth of the Hai River, below Tientsin.•However, landing parties wererepulsed and the British squadron wasseverely damaged by a surprisinglyefficient Chinese garrison
•Anglo-French forces gathered at Hong Kong in May 1860•A joint amphibious expedition moved north to the Gulf of Po Hai. It consistedof 11,000 British under General Sir James Hope Grant and 7,000 French underLieutenant General Cousin-Montauban.•As it approached Peking, the Chinese asked for talks and an armistice.•An allied delegation under Sir Harry Smith Parkes was sent to parley, but theywere seized and imprisoned.• It was later learned that half of them died under torture.•The expedition pressed ahead, defeating some 30,000 Chinese in twoengagements before reaching the walls of Peking on September 26.•Preparations for an assault commenced and the Old Summer Palace (YuanMing Yuan) was occupied and looted.
Aftermath of Second Opium War•Another Chinese request for peace was accepted and China agreed to all demands.•The survivors of the Parkes delegation were returnedGeneral Grant burned anddestroyed the Old Summer Palace in reprisal for the mistrea,tment of the Parkesparty, October 24.•Ten new treaty ports, including Tientsin, were opened to trade with the westernpowers, foreign diplomats were to be allowed at Peking and the opium trade was tobe regulated by the Chinese authorities.•Kowloon, on the mainland opposite Hong Kong Island, was surrendered to theBritish. Permission was granted for foreigners (including Protestant and Catholicmissionaries) to travel throughout the country.•An indemnity of three million ounces of silver was paid to Great Britain and twomillion to France.
Conclusion•The Anglo-French victory was heralded in the British press as a triumph for Palmerston,which made his popularity rise to new heights.•British merchants were delighted at the prospects of the expansion of trade in the FarEast.•Other foreign powers were pleased with the outcome too, since they hoped to takeadvantage of the opening-up of China.•Russia soon extorted the Maritime Provinces from China and founded the portof Vladivostok.