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.