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History   >   China – The First Opium War, 1839-42

China and the West: 2,000 Years of Trade

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China – The First Opium War, 1839-42

In this course, Dr Lars Laamann (SOAS) explores the First Opium War, 1839-42. The course begins by considering the history of trade between China and the West from the 1st century BC to the mid-17th century AD. After that, we turn to the system that was put in place by the Chinese authorities to regulate trade with the West in the 17th and 18th centuries, before moving on in the third and fourth modules to explore the growth of the opium trade to China in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the fifth module, we think about why opium was so popular in China, as well as why some sections of society were so opposed to it, before turning in the sixth module to consider some of the interpretations of why this disagreement between the Chinese and the British escalated into full-scale war. In the seventh module, we trace the progress of the war, including the intense diplomatic efforts made by both sides throughout the war, culminating in the Treaty of Nanking (1842), which ended the war. In the final module, we think about the consequences of the war, focusing in particular on the importance of the war in what the Chinese would later call the 'Century of Humiliation' and on current relations between China and the West.

China and the West: 2,000 Years of Trade

In this module, we think about Western trade with China and south-east Asia between the 1st century BC and the mid-17th century AD. As we move through the module, we think about the different nations that have controlled the trade routes from Europe to the East (first the Arabs, then the Portuguese, then the Dutch), the kinds of goods that the Europeans were looking for in the East (Indian pepper, nutmeg from the Banda Islands, etc.) and vice versa (Anatolian opium, Dutch tulips, etc.), the establishment of East India Companies by various European powers in the 17th centuries, the importance for the Europeans of integrating with the Chinese junk trade, and the impact of the replacement of the Ming dynasty with the foreign, Manchu-led Qing (pronounced: 'Ching') dynasty in 1644.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Laamann, L. (2018, August 15). China – The First Opium War, 1839-42 - China and the West: 2,000 Years of Trade [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Laamann, L. "China – The First Opium War, 1839-42 – China and the West: 2,000 Years of Trade." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


Dr Lars Laamann

Dr Lars Laamann

SOAS, University of London