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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2011 05:45AM) (new)

Bentley | 31563 comments Mod
This is the thread used to discuss the First Opium War in China.

"The First Opium War (1839–42), also known as the First Anglo-Chinese War was the first of the two Opium Wars fought between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Dynasty of China, with the aim of securing economic benefits from trade in China.

In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking—the first of what the Chinese called the unequal treaties—granted an indemnity to Britain, the opening of five treaty ports, and the cession of Hong Kong Island, ending the monopoly of trading in the Canton System. The war marked the end of China's isolation and the beginning of modern Chinese history."

Source: Wikipedia

message 2: by 'Aussie Rick' (last edited Sep 04, 2011 12:44AM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I saw this new release in a book shop today in case the subject matter interest anyone:

The Opium War Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell by Julia Lovell
‘On the outside, [the foreigners] seem intractable, but inside they are cowardly. . . Although there have been a few ups-and-downs, the situation as a whole is under control.’

In October 1839, a few months after the Chinese Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, dispatched these confident words to his emperor, a cabinet meeting in Windsor voted to fight Britain’s first Opium War (1839-42) with China. The conflict turned out to be rich in tragicomedy: in bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past 170 years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding myth of modern Chinese nationalism: the start of China’s heroic struggle against a Western conspiracy to destroy the country with opium and gunboat diplomacy.

Beginning with the dramas of the war itself, Julia Lovell explores its causes and consequences and, through this larger narrative, interweaves the curious stories of opium’s promoters and attackers. The Opium War is both the story of modern China – starting from this first conflict with the West – and an analysis of the country’s contemporary self-image. It explores how China’s national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present; and how delusion and prejudice have bedevilled its relationship with the modern West.

"Making the most of her considerable gifts as a story teller and deep familiarity with the contrasting ways that the tale of the Opium War has been told inside and outside of China, Julia Lovell offers us a fresh perspective on a pivotal episode in nineteenth-century history. The result is a compulsively readable and consistently thought provoking work. It is filled with both lively accounts of things that happened long ago and insightful comments on the powerful shadows that these old events continue to cast in our still-young century." - Jeffrey Wasserstrom, (author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know)

"Julia Lovell has written a lucid, perceptive and rich account of this much manipulated story of the first, bruising encounter between China and the West. An important and compelling book for anyone who wants to understand the uses and misuses of Chinese history." -

"No one who has read Julia Lovell's marvelous book on the Great Wall of China will be surprised that she has written such a great history of the Opium War. This defining passage in China's history - the beginning of a grisly century and a half of exploitation and misery - provides a rich seam of material which Julia Lovell draws on with huge narrative skill. Not the least of her attributes is her ability to show how these events have resonated down the years. A real cracker of a book." - Chris Patten, (former Governor and Commander in Chief of Hong Kong)

"You cannot understand China today without understanding the huge impact the Opium Wars have had on restructuring Chinese national pride. This is the first western book I have read that does justice to that complicated story." - Xinran, (author of The Good Women of China and Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother)

"In this riveting book, Julia Lovell explores the myths surrounding opium trading and the titanic clash between Britain and China, which shaped China's perception of its place in the world for more than a century. This book is at its heart a powerful plea for deeper mutual sympathy between the West and China; with Western economies under stress and tensions rising over trade imbalances, the parallel between the 1830's and today is unmistakable . . . we would be wise to heed the ancient warning that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - Tim Clissold, (author of Mr China)

"More than just a history... by looking at the conflict from a contemporary viewpoint, The Opium War offers insight into an Asian superpower still uneasy with its trade relations with the West." - International Herald Tribune

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31563 comments Mod
Thank you very much Aussie Rick for your add to get this thread started.

message 4: by Tim (new)

Tim Schultz | 26 comments I am about to start a research paper on the Opium Wars. Can anybody recommend good books on this subject?

message 5: by 'Aussie Rick' (last edited Mar 01, 2012 11:47AM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Hi Tim, I haven't had time to read the new book above but this book offers a decent starting point; "The Chinese Opium Wars" by Jack Beeching.

The Chinese Opium Wars by Jack Beeching by Jack Beeching

This book below I do have but haven't read yet but I understand it offers a very good account as well:

Opium War, 1840-1842 Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the War by Which They Forced Her Ga by Peter Ward Fay by Peter Ward Fay

message 6: by Tim (new)

Tim Schultz | 26 comments Thanks for the suggestions!

message 7: by Alisa (last edited Feb 24, 2013 02:53PM) (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5516 comments The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes
The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes by Arthur Waley by Arthur Waley

First published in 1958, this volume translates and places in historical context a number of private documents, which explain what the Opium War felt like on the Chinese side.

message 8: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5516 comments Foreign Mud: Being an Account of the Opium Imbroglio at Canton in the 1830s and the Anglo-Chinese War That Followed
Foreign Mud Being an Account of the Opium Imbroglio at Canton in the 1830s and the Anglo-Chinese War That Followed by Maurice Collis by Maurice Collis

First published in 1946 and long out of print, Foreign Mud is a marvelous historical reconstruction of the events surrounding the illegal trade of opium in Canton during the 1830s and the Opium Wars between Britain and China that followed. Based largely on voluminous documents written by British doctors, missionaries, merchants, and government officials, Collis's tale, far from being a dry assemblage of dates and facts, is a fascinating example of twentieth-century Orientalist literature: ." must picture the broad river puckered with little waves, the green sweep of the rice, on the horizon blue hills; you must conjure the many sorts of passing craft, the Mandarin house-boats, dainty and lacquered, the streamers and lanterns of passenger boats, the high tilted junks with demon-painted sterns; and you must plunge these images into a light more intense than we know in these countries, into a warmer wind and an air, purer and more scented than we can sniff except in dreams."Collis describes, in all its complexities, a moment in time when China is forced, after more than two thousand years of self-contained sufficiency, to open its doors to the culture, commerce, and evangelization of the West -- the casus belli, foreign mud: the opium the British grew and shipped from India. Interspersed with various maps, plans, and illustrations, Foreign Mud is a historical narrative the reader will find more entertaining than any Spielberg film.

message 9: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Military Hist L/Global NF/Eur/Brit/Music (new)

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 11491 comments Mod
As a reference to what caused all the trouble, this book gives the reader the full picture of opium and how it not only started the Opium Wars, but has continued to wreak havoc on the modern world.

Opium: A History

Opium A History by Martin Booth by Martin BoothMartin Booth

Known to mankind since prehistoric times, opium is arguably the oldest and most widely used narcotic. Opium: A History traces the drug's astounding impact on world culture-from its religious use by prehistoric peoples to its influence on the imaginations of the Romantic writers; from the earliest medical science to the Sino-British opium wars. And, in the present day, as the addict population rises and penetrates every walk of life, Opium shows how the international multibillion-dollar heroin industry operates with terrifying efficiency and forms an integral part of the world's money markets.

In this first full-length history of opium, acclaimed author Martin Booth uncovers the multifaceted nature of this remarkable narcotic and the bittersweet effects of a simple poppy with a deadly legacy.

message 10: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Military Hist L/Global NF/Eur/Brit/Music (new)

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 11491 comments Mod
Often, especially in old film, the Chinese are frequently pictured in opium dens and most of us tend to scoff at the stereotype. Unfortunately, this book supports the fact that multitudes of Chinese were addicted to opium. An interesting look at the Opium Wars.

Opium Wars

Opium Wars by W. Travis Hanes by W. Travis Hanes (no photo)


In this tragic and powerful story, the two Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860 between Britain and China are recounted for the first time through the eyes of the Chinese as well as the Imperial West. Opium entered China during the Middle Ages when Arab traders brought it into China for medicinal purposes. As it took hold as a recreational drug, opium wrought havoc on Chinese society. By the early nineteenth century, 90 percent of the Emperor's court and the majority of the army were opium addicts.Britain was also a nation addicted -- to tea, grown in China, and paid for with profits made from the opium trade. When China tried to ban the use of the drug and bar its Western smugglers from it gates, England decided to fight to keep open China's ports for its importation. England, the superpower of its time, managed to do so in two wars, resulting in a drug-induced devastation of the Chinese people that would last 150 years.

In this page-turning, dramatic and colorful history, The Opium Wars responds to past, biased Western accounts by representing the neglected Chinese version of the story and showing how the wars stand as one of the monumental clashes between the cultures of East and West.

message 11: by Jerome (last edited Jun 14, 2013 06:49AM) (new)

Jerome | 3487 comments Here's a newer book:

Chusan: The Opium Wars, and the Forgotten Story of Britain's First Chinese Island

Chusan The Opium Wars, and the Forgotten Story of Britain's First Chinese Island by Liam D'Arcy-Brown by Liam D'Arcy-Brown (no photo)


"We must religiously observe our engagements with China, but I fear that Hong Kong is a sorry possession and Chusan is a magnificent island admirably placed for our purposes." So wrote the home secretary Sir James Graham to the prime minister Sir Robert Peel, as British diplomats prepared to return the island of Chusan to Chinese rule during the winter of 1845. For years, this now little-known island off the coast of Zhejiang province had been home to thousands of men, women and children of all classes and backgrounds, of all races and religions, from across the British Empire and beyond. Before the Union Jack ever flew over Hong Kong, it had been raised on Chusan. From a wealth of primary archives, Liam D'Arcy-Brown pieces together the forgotten story of how the British wrested Chusan from the Qing dynasty, only to hand it back for the sake of Queen Victoria's honour and Britain's national prestige. At a time when the Chinese Communist Party is inspiring a new brand of patriotism by revisiting the shame inflicted during the Opium Wars, here is a book that puts Britain's incursions into nineteenth-century China in a fascinating and revealing new light.

message 12: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Military Hist L/Global NF/Eur/Brit/Music (new)

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 11491 comments Mod
One more look at the notorious trade which resulted in the Opium Wars.

The Chinese Opium Wars

The Chinese Opium Wars by Jack Beeching by Jack Beeching (no photo)


An enlightening account of a notorious period in nineteenth-century imperialism, when an effort by the Chinese government to stamp out the country's profitable opium trade resulted in a series of conflicts known as the Opium Wars. Index; illustrations and map.

message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31563 comments Mod
Thank you Jerome and Jill

message 14: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Military Hist L/Global NF/Eur/Brit/Music (new)

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 11491 comments Mod
You are more than welcome.

message 15: by Martin (last edited Apr 21, 2014 09:14AM) (new)

Martin Zook | 615 comments A couple of historical novels that are part of a well-received trilogy have been authored by Amitav Ghosh. They're immensely engaging in that 19th Century literature way.

In Sea of Poppies Ghosh portrays the opium industry in Britain's India. This was the supply base for the opium that the Brits sold in China.

River of Smoke is the second volume and is set in China. It examines the growing tensions between the British colony in Canton and Chinese leaders attempting to outlaw the use of opium and its import. It ends on the eve of the conflict of the first opium war.

Flood of Fire, the third installment, is expected to be published in the spring of 2015.

For those who like their historical fiction at ground level, these books should appeal. At the same time, Ghosh is mindful of larger historical implications, such as the ramifications of a global trading community: "The way of heaven is fairness to all; it does not suffer us to harm others in order to benefit ourselves."

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) by Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke (Ibis trilogy, #2) by Amitav Ghosh by Amitav GhoshAmitav Ghosh

message 16: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11630 comments Mod
Great, Martin, run the bookcovers together and you got it, so the second one doesn't look hanging. Great effort:

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) by Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke (Ibis trilogy, #2) by Amitav Ghosh by Amitav GhoshAmitav Ghosh

message 17: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Military Hist L/Global NF/Eur/Brit/Music (new)

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 11491 comments Mod
The Treaty of Nanking gave Hong Kong to the British and granted indemnity to Britain and had a great effect on the opium trade.

The Treaty of Nanking

(no image)The Treaty of Nanking by Dennis Abrams (no photo)


The Treaty of Nanking, signed between Great Britain and China to end the First Opium War (1839-1842) created a new framework for Chinese foreign relations and overseas trade that would last for nearly a century. This title presents the story behind this treaty.

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