The Opium War, By Julia Lovell


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Our passion for tea produced a trade imbalance that the East India Co. addressed by selling Indian opium to China. Imports of the drug increased 10-fold from 1800 to 1839, when the Qing ruler imposed a blockade.

Ironically, Charles Eliot, the British official who triggered the war, "instinctively disliked the opium trade" – but money ruled.

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Lovell has produced a wonderfully readable book from this discreditable episode – though scarcely obscure for the Chinese, who objected to Cameron's Remembrance Day poppy when he visited China in 2010.