Application Letter Example on Opium Wars


The Opium Warsinstigated in two interregnums from 1839 to 1842 known as first opium war and from 1856 to 1860 known as second opium war were the apex of conflicts between the British Empire and Qing Dynasty. The disputes between two imperial powers ranged from thorny diplomatic relations to uneasy trade ties. These disputes emerged in the form of, what is commonly called as, Opium Wars. The current research will briefly analyse the events held in these wars.

Opium War I

In the 17th century, China was ruled by Qing (pronounced as Ching) Dynasty. The rulers of the Dynasty were of Manchus from Manchurian region. These rulers were not in the favour of overseas trade as their attitude towards trade was further anchored by Confucian’s views that trade generated chaos and triggers unrest in society. This particular attitude towards trade resulted in the imposition of trade barriers with China. These trade barriers enraged the British Empire.

Despite these restrictions, the British Empire instigated to import opium from China’s neighbor, India. Opium was suitable for the British to balance trade ties as China’s populace preferred ingeniously manufactured product like tea and silk. Due to its highly addictive nature, opium became a social problem in China which propelled Qing rulers to take immediate actions against its prevalence in Chinese society.

To stamp out the menace of opium, the Qing ruler appointed Lin Zexu. He was directed to control the trade of opium at the port of Canton according to Allingham. In 1893, Lin Zexu ordered Chinese authorities to seize and destroy all the opium from Canton. In retaliating to this move, the British captured areas near Canton. It resulted into skirmishes and China had to subdue Hong Kong in the Treaty of Nanking.

Opium War II

The Treaty of Nanking rendered China weak, on one hand, and the blatant acts of violation by the British resulted into the second Opium War in 1856 owing to blatant acts of the British. But the French imperial power was also keen to get enmeshed in Chinese affairs as it was also irked by murder of its missionary and its rights to have access to the port of Canton. The French and British army invaded China and defeated it in the Second Opium War and signed Treaty of Tientsin in 1858, which paved the way for opening up Chinese ports for foreigners.


These Opium Wars were not only about trade disputes and opium, but also about cultural differences between the East and the West, between traditional economic system and rising power of mercantilism of the West in the 18th century.

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