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The Opium Wars () were two wars waged between the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
and Western powers in the mid-19th century. The
First Opium War The First Opium War (), also known as the Opium War or the Anglo-Chinese War, was a series of military engagements fought between Britain and the Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last Dynasties in ...
, fought in 1839–1842 between Qing China and the United Kingdom, was triggered by the dynasty's campaign against the British merchants who sold opium in China. The
Second Opium War The Second Opium War (), also known as the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A gov ...
was fought between the Qing and the United Kingdom and France, 1856–1860. In each war, the European force's modern military technology led to easy victory over the Qing forces, with the consequence that the government was compelled to grant favourable tariffs, trade concessions, reparations and territory to the Europeans. The wars and the subsequently-imposed treaties weakened the Qing dynasty and the Chinese imperial government, and forced China to open specified
treaty ports Treaty ports (; ja, 条約港) were the port cities in China and Japan that were opened to foreign trade mainly by the unequal treaties Unequal treaty is the name given by the Chinese to a series of treaties signed between the Qing dynasty ...
(especially
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
) that handled all trade with imperial powers. In addition, China gave the sovereignty over
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...
to the United Kingdom. Around this time, China's economy also contracted slightly, but the sizable
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of an ...
and Dungan Revolt had a much larger effect.


First Opium War

The First Opium War began in 1839 and was fought over trading rights, open trade, and especially diplomatic status. In the eighteenth century, China had a trade surplus with Europe, selling porcelains, silk, and tea in exchange for silver. In the late 18th century, the British
East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after Acts of Union 1707, 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known a ...
expanded cultivation of opium in its Indian Bengal territories, selling it to private traders who transported it to China and passed it on to Chinese smugglers. By 1787, the Company was sending 4,000 chests of opium (each 77 kg) per year. In earlier times, opium was taken as a relatively harmless medicine, but the new practice of smoking opium recreationally increased demand tremendously and often led to addiction. The
Chinese Emperor Emperor of China, or ''Huáng dì'' was the monarch of China during the History of China#Imperial China, Imperial Period of Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political theory, the emperor was considered the Son of Heaven and the autocracy, ...
issued edicts making opium illegal in 1729, 1799, 1814, and 1831, but imports grew as smugglers and colluding officials sought profit. Some Americans entered the trade by smuggling opium from Turkey into China, including Warren Delano Jr., the grandfather of twentieth-century President
Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the De ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt
, and
Francis Blackwell Forbes Francis Blackwell Forbes (August 11, 1839 – May 2, 1908) was an American botanist with expertise in Chinese seed-producing plants who also worked as a merchant and opium trader in Asia. Early life Francis Blackwell Forbes was born in New York ...
; in American historiography this is sometimes referred to as the
Old China Trade The Old China Trade () refers to the early commerce between the Qing Empire The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford Englis ...
. By 1833, the opium traffic soared to 30,000 chests. The East India Company sent opium to their warehouses in the free-trade region of Canton (
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the ...

Guangzhou
), and sold it to Chinese smugglers. In 1834, the East India Company's monopoly on the China trade ceased, as the illegal opium trade burgeoned. Partly concerned with the moral decay of the people and partly with the outflow of silver, the Emperor charged High Commissioner with ending the trade. In 1839, Commissioner Lin published in Canton, but did not send, an open Letter To Queen Victoria pleading for a halt to the opium contraband. Lin ordered the seizure of all opium in Canton, including that held by foreign governments and trading companies (called factories),Haythornthwaite, 2000, p.237. and the companies prepared to hand over a token amount to placate him.
Charles Elliot Admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nations and the United States, a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general officer ...

Charles Elliot
, Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China, arrived 3 days after the expiry of Lin's deadline, as Chinese soldiers enforced a shutdown and blockade of the factories. The standoff ended after Elliot paid for all the opium on credit from the British Government (despite lacking official authority to make the purchase) and handed the 20,000 chests (1,300 metric tons) over to Lin, who had them destroyed at Humen. Charles Elliott then wrote to London advising the use of military force against the Chinese. A small skirmish occurred between British and Chinese vessels in the Kowloon Estuary on 4 September 1839. After almost a year, the British government decided, in May 1840, to send troops to impose reparations for the financial losses of the British traders in Canton and to guarantee future security for trade. On 21 June 1840 a British naval force arrived off
Macao Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), (RAEM) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: ...

Macao
and moved to bombard the port of
Dinghai () is a district of Zhoushan City made of 128 islands in Zhejiang province, China. It is based on the larger northwestern half of Zhoushan Island, where it borders Putuo District, Zhoushan, Putuo in the east. The district boundary meets that of Da ...
. In the ensuing conflict, the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
used its superior ships and guns to inflict a series of decisive defeats on the Chinese Empire.Tsang, Steve (2007). ''A Modern History of Hong Kong''. I. B. Tauris. pp. 3–13, 29. . The war was concluded by the
Treaty of Nanking The Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) was a peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) between the United Kingdom and China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of ...
(Nanjing) in 1842, the first of the
Unequal Treaties Unequal treaty is the name given by the Chinese to a series of treaties signed between China (mostly referring to the Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasty in t ...
between China and Western powers.''Treaty of Nanjing''
in''Britannica''.
The treaty forced China to cede in perpetuity the
Hong Kong Island Hong Kong Island is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll ( ...

Hong Kong Island
and surrounding smaller islands to the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, and it established five
treaty ports Treaty ports (; ja, 条約港) were the port cities in China and Japan that were opened to foreign trade mainly by the unequal treaties Unequal treaty is the name given by the Chinese to a series of treaties signed between China (mostly refer ...
at
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...
,
Canton Canton may refer to: Administrative division terminology * Canton (administrative division), territorial/administrative division in some countries, notably Switzerland * Township (Canada), known as ''canton'' in Canadian French Arts and entert ...
,
Ningpo Ningbo (; , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a Mandarin Chinese#Subgrouping, dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca am ...

Ningpo
(Ningbo),
Foochow Fuzhou (; , Fuzhounese The Fuzhou dialect (, FR: ), also Foochow, Hokchew, Hok-chiu, or Fuzhounese, is the prestige variety of the Eastern Min branch of Min Chinese spoken mainly in the Mindong region of Eastern Fujian Province. Like m ...
(Fuzhou), and
Amoy Xiamen ( , ; ), also known as Amoy (, from Hokkien Hokkien (; , Pe̍h-ōe-jī: ''Hok-kiàn-ōe'', ) or Minnan (閩南語/闽南语), known as Quanzhang or Tsuan-Tsiang (泉漳) in linguistics, is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minn ...

Amoy
(Xiamen).Haythornthwaite 2000, p. 239. The treaty also imposed a twenty-one million dollar payment to the United Kingdom, with six million, paid immediately and the rest through specified installments thereafter. Another treaty the following year gave
most favoured nation In international economic relations and international politics, most favoured nation (MFN) is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magaz ...
status to the British Empire and added provisions for British
extraterritoriality In international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common con ...
. France secured the same concessions in treaties of 1843 and 1844.


Second Opium War

In 1853, northern China was convulsed by the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of an ...
, which established its capital at
Nanking Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal province A province is almost always an administrative divisi ...

Nanking
. In spite of this, a new Imperial Commissioner
Ye Mingchen Ye Mingchen (21 December 1807 – 9 April 1859) was a high-ranking Chinese official during the Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last History of China#Imperial China, imperial Dynasties in Chinese histor ...

Ye Mingchen
was appointed at Canton, determined to stamp out the opium trade, which was still technically illegal. In October 1856 he seized the ''Arrow'', a ship claiming British registration, and threw its crew into chains.
Sir John Bowring Sir John Bowring (Chinese language, Chinese translated name: 寶寧, 寶靈 (for Mandarin speakers) or 包令 (for Cantonese)) (Thai language, Thai: พระยาสยามมานุกูลกิจ สยามมิตรมหายศ) ...

Sir John Bowring
, Governor of British Hong Kong, called up Rear Admiral Sir Michael Seymour's
East Indies and China Station The East Indies and China Station was a formation of the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first maj ...
fleet which on 23 October bombarded and captured the
Pearl River The Pearl River, also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by populati ...
forts on the approach to Canton, and proceeded to bombard Canton itself, but had insufficient forces to take and hold the city. On 15 December, during a riot in Canton, European commercial properties were set on fire and Bowring appealed for military intervention. The murder of a French missionary inspired support from France. The European allies, including the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire, now sought greater concessions from China, including legalization of the opium trade, expansion of the transport of ''
coolie A coolie (also spelled koelie, kuli, cooli, cooly, or quli) is a low-wage laborer, typically of Asian descent. The term is considered outdated and offensive. The word ''coolie'' was first popularized in the 16th century by European traders a ...

coolie
s'' (cheap labourers), opening all of China to British merchants and opium traffickers, and exempting foreign imports from internal transit duties. The war resulted in the
Treaty of Tientsin The Treaty of Tientsin, now also known as the Treaty of Tianjin, is a collective name for several documents signed at Tianjin Tianjin (), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities ...
(26 June 1858), which forced the Chinese to pay reparations for the expenses of the recent war, open a second group of ten ports to European commerce, legalize the opium trade, and grant foreign traders and missionaries rights to travel within China. After a second phase of fighting which included the sack of the
Old Summer Palace The Old Summer Palace, also known as Yuanmingyuan () or Yuanmingyuan Park, originally called the Imperial Gardens (), and sometimes called the Winter Palace, was a complex of palaces and gardens in present-day Haidian District Haidian Distric ...
and the occupation of the
Forbidden City The Forbidden City () is a palace A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a or . The word is derived from the name palātium, for in Rome which housed ...

Forbidden City
palace complex in Beijing, the Treaty was confirmed by the
Convention of Peking The Convention of Peking or First Convention of Peking is an agreement comprising three distinct treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as publ ...

Convention of Peking
in 1860.


See also

*
Destruction of opium at Humen 300px, Commissioner Lin and the destruction of opium at Humen, June 1839 The destruction of opium at Humen began on 3June 1839 and involved the destruction of 1,000 long tons (1,016 t) of illegal opium Opium (or poppy tears, scientific ...
*
History of opium in China The history of opium in China began with the use of opium for medicinal purposes during the Tang dynasty, 7th century. In the Qing dynasty, 17th century the practice of mixing opium with tobacco for smoking spread from Southeast Asia, creating a far ...


References

{{Reflist


Further reading

* Beeching, Jack. ''The Chinese Opium Wars'' (Harvest Books, 1975) * Fay, Peter Ward. ''The 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 gates ajar'' (Univ of North Carolina Press, 1975). * Gelber, Harry G. Opium, Soldiers and Evangelicals: Britain's 1840–42 War with China, and Its Aftermath. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). * Hanes, W. Travis and Frank Sanello. ''The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another'' (2014) * Kitson, Peter J. "The Last War of the Romantics: De Quincey, Macaulay, the First Chinese Opium War" ''Wordsworth Circle'' (2018) 49#
online
* Lovell, Julia. ''The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China'' (2011). * Marchant, Leslie R. "The War of the Poppies," ''History Today'' (May 2002) Vol. 52 Issue 5, pp 42–49, online popular history * Platt, Stephen R. ''Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age'' (NY Vintage, 2018), 556 pp. **
Kenneth Pomeranz Kenneth Pomeranz, Fellow of the British Academy, FBA (born November 4, 1958) is University Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1980, where he was a Telluride House, Telluride Scholar, ...
, "Blundering into War" (review of Stephen R. Platt, ''Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age'', Vintage), ''
The New York Review of Books ''The New York Review of Books'' (or ''NYREV'' or ''NYRB'') is a semi-monthly magazine with articles on literature, culture, economics, science and current affairs. Published in New York City, it is inspired by the idea that the discussion of i ...
'', vol. LXVI, no. 10 (6 June 2019), pp. 38–41. * Polachek, James M., ''The inner opium war'' (Harvard Univ Asia Center, 1992). * Waley, Arthur, ed. ''The Opium War through Chinese eyes'' (1960). * Wong, John Y. ''Deadly Dreams: Opium, Imperialism, and the Arrow War (1856–1860) in China.'' (Cambridge UP, 2002) * Yu, Miles Maochun
"Did China Have A Chance To Win The Opium War?" ''Military History in the News'' July 3, 2018


External links

*
The Opium Wars
,
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London London is the c ...

BBC Radio 4
discussion with Yangwen Zheng, Lars Laamann, and Xun Zhou ('' In Our Time'', 12 April 2007)