EU1101E Final Essay - Opium Trade A Manifestation of the British Spirit As the empire where the sun never sets on the British Empire has long been

EU1101E Final Essay - Opium Trade A Manifestation of the...

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Opium Trade: A Manifestation of the British Spirit As the empire where the “sun never sets on”, the British Empire has long been considered one of the largest and strongest empire ever to have existed in history. After a series of European wars and period of revolution, Britain emerged as one of the strongest European power over the rest. The Industrial Revolution helped reshaped various aspects and gave rise to several critical values in 18 th and 19 th century British society. Key amongst these were the importance of entrepreneurship, free trade and idea of a civilizing mission. The establishment and growth of the Opium Trade perhaps best encapsulate these three important British values. Although such values have come to be associated with British imperialism, at their core these values were key features of modern Europe society – even more so for the British. Considering the integral role Great Britain had played in European and World affairs up till the World Wars, British values definitely had a strong impact in formulating modern Europe. Opium Trade was a complex but yet integral element of the British economic nexus – especially in the Anglo-Indian-Sino triangular trade. As this paper examine and chart the history of Opium trade within the British Empire, it will be clear that Opium Trade can be considered a fair representation of the modern British spirit that in turn play a prominent role in shaping modern Europe as a whole. The early forays into economic expansionism was led by the British East India Company into the far flung regions beyond the Mediterranean into the Asian subcontinent. By the 18 th Century, the EIC was a key player in economic proceedings in London alongside state institutions such as Bank of England. 1 The Industrial Revolution had helped raised ideas about economic efficiency and notions of capitalism was beginning to take root in British 1 H.V. Bowen, “ The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain, 1756-1833” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) 29.
society. Profits and market economics soon became the main elements of British society and this was an era where one can be a “Self-Made Man”. 2 The emergence of EIC was a sub product of the burgeoning entrepreneur spirit amongst British. The EIC hence emerged as a charter company vested with British Crown support to conduct trade expeditions into Asia in search of economic opportunities. The role EIC had played in India and China – especially regarding Opium – will be a focal point of the paper’s discussion as they served as the main British agency in Asia until the 1840s. Chronologically, the paper will look at the origins of Opium production before proceeding to the Opium Wars. This will illustrate how the different phases of Opium trade encompasses the important values incorporated in British society during then.

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