Sir Jardine Matheson (Paul Anderson) persuades Lord Palmerston (John Crow) that war with China is necessary to protect “free trade” and make the Chinese kow-tow to the British. The trade that he wishes the British state to protect is the illegal opium trafficking to an unwilling Chinese nation.
Until the British began growing cheap mass-produced opium in Bengal in 1757, it was used in medicine and for pleasure only by the wealthy as it was an expensive luxury. The East India Company grew the opium and shipped it to permanently moored hulks off the coast of China where it was bought by Chinese smugglers and sold inside the country.
Photo by Jan Jefferies (c) Anna Chen 2012