The Chinese Opium Wars
Hardcover, dj, large in-8, 352 pp., illustrated, bibliography, index. After the economic depression of 1837, the British treasury was extremely shaky; tea produced high tax revenue but importing it was a drain on sterling. The solution found was to trade Indian opium for Chinese tea, an exchange that eventually involved a hundred million pounds a year. In this excellent study, Beeching anatomizes the get-rich-quick types, both Chinese and British, who conducted a looting operation that addicted several million Chinese a year. The book also investigates the Canton officials who fought the atrocity, and there is an especially good account of the Taiping "Chinese Lutheran" rebellion. Most important, Beeching shows how the policy was consciously created at the apex of government by the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, and, while fully sympathetic to the Chinese victims, shows that China's empire was inherently as cruel as the imperialists. The military history of the struggle is permeated with the weakness of the Chinese, who won only one significant victory, in 1859, during the clashes that climaxed the next year with the gratuitous British burning of the Winter Palace. This is not the first book to point to the hypocrisy of the drug-pushing called "free trade," but it is a unique full-length, scholarly study of the whole ghastly business. (review: Kirkus) Note that Palmerston was directly influenced bij William Jardine (1784-1843) and James Matheson (1796-1878) who had big interests in the tea-for-opium-trade with China. Jardine outclassed his partner in lobbying and managed to provoke the first opium war even suggesting strenght of troops to Palmerston. Jardine Matheson & Co., later Jardine Matheson & Co. Ltd., forerunner of today's Jardine Matheson Holdings, was a Far Eastern trading company founded in 1832 with Scotsmen William Jardine and James Matheson as senior partners. Trading in OPIUM, cotton, tea, silk and a variety of other goods, from its early beginnings in Canton (modern day Guangzhou), in 1844 the firm established its head office in the new British colony of Hong Kong then proceeded to expand all along the China Coast. (wiki) In the first chapters B. discusses the use of laudanum (a opium derivate) in medicine; one of the victims was Helen Gladstone (1814-1880), the younger sister of the PM.