The Legacy of Opium

The British Industrial revolution in the 1700’s radically changed international consumption and trade patterns. Sometimes for the worst..

Cheap manufactured goods (first cloth, then weapons other mass produced goods) became staple exports from Britain while raw materials, foods and luxury items were imported from her colonies and China.

As a result,two important ‘triangles’ of trade developed, one between Britain , Africa and the Americas; the other between Britain, India and China.

From the mid 1700’s into the 1800’s every aspect of trade favoured Britain, except its trade with China. The empire needed to find a way to reverse this imbalance.

It saw opium as the solution. China did not.

As early as 1729 the Chinese imperial court felt opium to be a threat, promulgating the first imperial edict against opium. Yet trade and consumption of opium flourished regardless.

So much so that in the early 1800’s the British East India Company adopted an official policy to illegally sell opium (sourced from northern eastern India, today known as Nagaland) as a means to fund tea and other imports required back home.

As a result of these illicit sales the balance of trade with China swung heavily in Britain’s favour.

The legacy of this policy was a growing number of addicts in China:

In 1729, 200 chests ( 1 chest = 60-72kg ) of opium where imported into China. By 1838 it was at least 40 000 chests or 2.6 million kilograms .

Addicts in China where estimated to be between 12-13 million in 1838 ,spending 100 million taels of silver on opium , while the Chinese governments total annual revenue from ALL sources was only 40 million taels.

By 1873 importation of opium into China reached 96 000 chests.

Western traders wanted to make this lucrative trade legal. To them it was no different than trade in alcohol or tobacco.

Conflict was inevitable, which resulted in the Opium wars.

As a result, it comes as no surprise that opium has had a long history in this region and we were interested to see if traces of this trade still exits in Nagaland toady.

Northern Nagaland is the most unspoilt part of this state where antiquity still thrives in the tribal villages

Northern Nagaland, bordering Myanmar is the most unspoilt part of this state where antiquity still thrives in the tribal villages

 

and the BRO continues to blow its own  trumphet

and the BRO continues to blow its own trumpet

 

over its less than friendly tracks.

over its less than friendly tracks.

 

Villages comprise of thatched longhouses where inhabitants live a fairly traditional hunting and farming lifestyle.

Villages comprise of thatched longhouses where inhabitants live a fairly traditional hunting and farming lifestyle.

 

The kitchen in a longhome comprises an indoor fire place where meat and corn is smoked.

The kitchen in a longhome comprises an indoor fire place where meat and corn is smoked.

 

Harvesting water

Harvesting water

 

Fresh produce

Fresh produce

 

 This area  is also home to the tattooed headhunting  Konyak tribe

This area is also home to the tattooed headhunting Konyak tribe

 

...

 

...

 

The headman’s longhouse in the village of Longwa straddles both the Indian and Myanmar borders

The headman’s longhouse in the village of Longwa straddles both the Indian and Myanmar borders

 

India on this side of the plllar

India on this side of the plllar

 

 and Myanmar on the other side

and Myanmar on the other side

 

The Rooster in the foreground is in India, the others are in Myanmar

The Rooster in the foreground is in India, the others are in Myanmar

 

 Outside the headmans house

Outside the headmans house

 

children are drawn to Linda

children are drawn to Linda

 

...

 

....

….

 

While these ones disappear down the hill when they see me

While these ones disappear down the hill when they see me

 

 But return soon as their curiosity gets the better of them

But return soon as their curiosity gets the better of them

 

 Inside the headmans longhome

Inside the headmans longhome

 

...

 

...

 

....

….

 

 The headmans throne is the one in the center, salvaged out of the jungle from a crashed WW 2 fighter

The headmans throne is the one in the center, salvaged out of the jungle from a crashed WW 2 fighter

 

This is used to ground flour

This is used to ground flour

 

We are invited behind this screen..

We are invited behind this screen..

 

 to what looks like a fire for tea

to what looks like a fire for tea

 

packages are passed

packages are passed

 

and opened

and opened

 

Opium being heated and reduced

Opium being heated and reduced

 

 and consumed via bamboo pipes

and consumed via bamboo pipes

 

...

 

The tea is free. A hit of opium is 10 Rupees, the equivalent of $ 0.15 . Maybe 30 years ago I may have considered it ...

The tea is free. A hit of opium is 10 Rupees, the equivalent of $ 0.15 . Maybe 30 years ago I may have considered it …

 

I would imagine this may their view

I would imagine this may be their view

 

While the working woman outside would have a completely different perspective on priorities

While the working woman outside would have a completely different perspective on priorities

 

13 Responses to The Legacy of Opium

  1. Mad Rider

    brilliant!

  2. Wendy & Amelia

    You are brilliant story tellers! Amazed at where you are allowed to take pictures! Thank you en-lighting us!

    • Harry

      Pictures were taken on the sly as I was not sure how they would react. Never enjoy shoving a camera In a persons face at the best of times , so most pictures on our blog are on the fly

  3. Jan and Gail

    fascinating beginning of the opium trade in India. Jan seems to have read about paying in opium for chinese tea but they first paid in silver and then opium
    You got great photos of the children. How sad that it is so poor everywhere

  4. Anonymous

    This is Jenny – How fascinating – but cant help thinking everyone would be a lot fatter without the opium

  5. Ida & Jeremy

    Lynnie and Harry, what a wonderful time you are having! This is so very interesting! Het Harry bietjie probeer?

  6. Joel

    Another very interesting instalment : -)

  7. DB

    WOW! This is again an eye-opener. Those head-hunters look dodgy – stay well clear….

  8. Anonymous

    Wow, a very rural and ancient way of life – looks like total subsistence farming. However, I did see what looks like power lines in the one photo!! They must have been fascinated with you and Linda.

    • Harry

      Power lines from years gone by .Unfortunately power in the entire region makes Eskom saints by comparison

  9. Anonymous

    Get the feeling of a forgotten world! Fascinating

  10. Philna

    Just amazing to go back in time.!

  11. Jim and Muriel

    Totally amazing facts—-some of which are rather sad but most revealing . Thanks for your insight to this part of our world and its history.

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