Esmeralda Plangesis's Reviews > Sea of Poppies

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
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Nov 21, 12


A fascinating historical book tracing the origins of the colonial occupation of India by Britain. Special reference is made to the enforced cultivation of opium by many poor peasants, processing plants for large-scale export to China leading up to the Opium wars between the former & China.

'But Mr.Burnham,' Neel persisted, 'is it not true that there is a great deal of addiction and intoxication in China? Surely such afflictions are not pleasing to our Creator?'
This nettled Mr.Burnham. 'These ills you mention sir, he replies are merely aspects of the fallen nature of Man.Should you ever happen to walk through the rookeries of London, Rajah Neel Rattan, you will see for yourself that there is as much addiction and intoxication in the gin shops of the Empire's capital as there is in the dens of Canton.'(p.107)

'It is tyranny alone that is to blame for China's degeneracy, sir. Merchants like myself are but servants of Free Trade, which is as immutable as God's commandments... "And I might add,in this regard that I do not think it sits well on a rajah of Rakshali to moralize on the subject of opium.'

'And why not? said Neel,steeling himself for the affront that was surely to follow.'Pray explain, Mr.Burnham.' 'Why not?' Mr.Burnham's eyebrows rose. 'well for the very good reason that everything you possess is paid for by opium-in this budgerow, your houses, this food.'But I would not go to war for it, sir,'Neel said in a tone that matched Mr. Burnhams's in its sharpness. 'and I do not believe the Empire will either. You must not imagine I am unaware of the part that Parliament plays in your country.'
'Parliament?' Mr. Burnham laughed. 'Parliament will not know of the war until it is over. Be assured, sir, that if such matters were left to Parliament there would be no Empire.'
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