Justifying the Opium War
in Creating the Opium War
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This chapter focuses closely on the origins of the Opium War, particularly its immediate trigger(s).The chapter examines how the Sino-British opium trade and its related issues were imagined and disputed in the immediate run-up to the First Anglo-Chinese War. It reveals that although the opium trade was closely interwoven with the ensuing confrontations, the debates on the subjects of opium, crisis and war can each be examined in its own right. Moreover, despite the fact that, in April 1840, the Whig government won the vote on its motion for war by only a small majority, the actual inclination to vigorous invention in the dispute with China was in fact greater than the voting results appear to indicate.

Creating the Opium War

British imperial attitudes towards China, 1792–1840

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