SeaOfPoppies.docx - Vyvijal 1 Shannon Vyvijal Professor Kim...

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Vyvijal 1Shannon VyvijalProfessor KimHIST 18004/18/17God Supports Our War and Other British FalsitiesThe 18thcentury marked a significant change in the trading dynamics in maritime Asia.Old European powers, such as the Spanish and Portuguese, began to decline in their dominanceof maritime Asian trade. Instead, Britain took the lead as the kingpin of trade in the region ofsouthern Asia and China. Their joint-stock company, the English East India Company, enabledthem to achieve huge profits and success in controlling territory in maritime Asia. InSea ofPoppiesby Amitav Ghosh, Benjamin Burnham and his company epitomize the EEIC’simperialist behavior during the eighteenth and nineteenth century through their strategies used tocontrol their territories and beliefs of the natives’ inferiority. Burnham is a wealthy, devoutlyreligious Englishman who builds his company, Burnham Bros., through transporting convictsand indentured servants. Eventually, the wealth generated from this business venture allowsBurnham to participate as a country trader in the EEIC’s opium auctioning in Calcutta.Throughout the novel, his character’s actions influence all figures involved in the EEIC’s opiumtrade, giving the reader a clear understanding of how British presence in maritime Asia affectedall levels of their society. Ultimately, Ghosh uses the effects of Burnham’s belief in Britishsuperiority and God-given right to free trade to show that European presence in maritime Asiaproduced disastrously negative impacts on the native population’s way of life.As a self-made, English businessman, Burnham strives to achieve British dominance overthe maritime Asian trade and spread Britain’s modern, civilized, superior ways to Asia. Unlike
Vyvijal 2the Portuguese and Spanish, Burnham and his British counterparts seek to permeate all aspects ofmaritime Asian life by creating not just a commercial, but also territorial empire. Burnhamlocates the center of his firm’s trading empire in Calcutta, the hub for all EEIC opium auctioning.Calcutta was one of the first major British trading bases and provides Burnham with two mainbenefits. First, his Indian associate, Neel Rattan Halder, lives nearby in a zemindary in Raskhali.Halder served as the landowning aristocrat of that West Bengal region, collecting land tax fromthe people working the land and later investing the collected tax money in Burnham’s firm. Thiswas a mutually beneficial relationship, as Neel explains,“Year after year, with British and American traders growing ever more skilled inevading Chinese laws, the market for opium expanded, and the Raja and hisassociates made handsome profits on their investment […] The family’s financialsurvival depended on their dealings with Mr. Benjamin Burnham; the more they

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Term
Spring
Professor
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Tags
History, Opium Wars, British Raj, maritime Asia

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