Empire’s opium trade
Watch the video, answer the questions on a piece of paper, then check your answers.
- When was tea grown only in China?
In the early nineteenth century
- For how long had China severely restricted trade with the West?
- What did the delegation beg the Emperor to do?
Open up his country and take some British products in exchange for tea
- What things did they give him?
Games and curiosities, scientific instruments and toys
- How did he respond to these gifts?
He was unimpressed
- Was opium allowed in China?
No, it was illegal, but the ban was widely ignored
- How many peasants were addicted to opium?
12 million (estimated)
- What did the British do in India?
They grew opium poppies and processed it in factories
- Who bought the opium in China?
- What did the British do with the profits from opium?
They bought Chinese tea
Watch the video, complete the gaps on a piece of paper, then check your answers.
In the early nineteenth century China was virtually the only place tea was grown, but there was a problem. For three centuries China had severely restricted trade with the West. The British were desperate and even sent a delegation to China. They begged the Emperor to open up his country and take some British products in exchange for tea. They presented him with all sorts of trinkets: games and curiosities, scientific instruments and toys. But he remained resolutely unimpressed.
“We possess all things,” said the Emperor. “I set no value upon things strange or ingenious, and I have no use for your country’s manufactures.”
But to get the tea they craved the British had one thing to trade that many Chinese craved even more: opium. The drug was illegal in China, though the ban was widely ignored. There were an estimated twelve million peasants addicted to opium. The authorities there called it “a deadly poison ruining the minds and morals of our people”. The British grew opium poppies in India. There they processed it in factories on a colossal scale. Finally it was shipped to China and sold to smugglers. With the profits British traders bought Chinese tea.