During the middle of the 19th Century, Britain and China would twice go to war over trade, and in particular the trade in opium. The Chinese people had progressively become addicted to the narcotic, a habit that British merchants were more than happy to feed from their opium-poppy fields in India. When the Qing dynasty rulers of China attempted to suppress this trade due to the serious social and economic problems it caused the British Government responded with gunboat diplomacy, and conflict soon ensued. The first conflict, known as the First Anglo-Chinese War or Opium War (1839-42), ended in British victory and the Treaty of Nanking. However, this treaty was heavily biased in favour of the British, and it would not be long before there was a renewal of hostilities, taking the form of what became known as the Second Anglo-Chinese War or Arrow War (1857-60). Again, the second conflict would end with an ‘unequal treaty’ that was heavily biased towards the victor.
LION AND THE DRAGON Britain’s Opium Wars with China 1839-1860
The Opium Wars were two wars in the mid-19th century involving the last imperial dynasty of China and the British Government and concerned their imposition of the lucrative trade of opium upon China. The clashes included the First Opium War (1839–1842), with the British naval forces, and in the Second Opium War (1856–1860) with both British naval and land forces involved.