The Steampunk Opium Wars

John Crow Constable Anna Chen Paul Anderson steampunk opium warsPhoto by Jan Jefferies

A musical extravaganza written by Anna Chen
Poems: After Kipling: Apology for the First Opium War by John Constable AKA John Crow
The Case For Free Trade by Paul Anderson
The Royal War Decree by Louise Whittle
The Case Against The First Opium War by John Paul O’Neill

BOOK & LYRICS by Anna Chen
MUSIC by Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray with Marc Jefferies

The Steampunk Opium Wars pages:
Cast: Portraits and Poems
The Company: who we are and how to find us.
Gallery: debut performance at the National Maritime Museum.
VIDEO: Lin Zexu Just Says No!
VIDEO: Sir Jardine-Matheson “The Case for Free Trade”
VIDEO: Lord Palmerston declares war on China
VIDEO: Britannia sings “Money”
VIDEO: Gary Lammin presents the Hackney Tea Ceremony

What they said …

“Invigorating, engrossing, witty, passionate and righteous – they should put Anna Chen’s The Steampunk Opium Wars on the school history curriculum.” Ben Chu of the Independent

” … a novelty in politically charged entertainment, defies easy analysis. … not so much political entertainment as politicising entertainment. … You can’t really ask for more.” Ben Chacko in the Morning Star

The Steampunk Opium Wars is a schtonking great epic with a fascinating cast of characters from belligerent freetraders in Parliament, East India Company buccaneers and complacent English businessmen in Canton to the honest lawman Lin Zexu, progressive Parliamentarians like Richard Cobden and William Gladstone, plus corrupt Mandarins and Chinese pirates.

Britain’s craving for chinoiserie in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in a trade imbalance that threatened to empty the treasury. To pay for the tea, silks, spices and porcelain we liked so much, the East India Company sold enormous quantities of cheap Bengal-grown opium to China, turning an aristocratic vice into a nationwide addiction.

The profits from the opium trade made fortunes, earned revenues for the British government, paid for the administration of the Empire in India and even financed a large slice of Royal Navy costs. When the Chinese tried to halt the import of the drug, the narco-capitalists persuaded Foreign Secretary Palmerston and Lord Melbourne’s government to go to war in 1839. The first military conflict, lasting a bloody three years, resulted in the Treaty of Nanking and the transfer of territory including Hong Kong to British rule.

In The Steampunk Opium Wars, poet Anna Chen brings you a satirical extravaganza about China, Britain, imperialism and drugs in the 19th century in verse & music. See narco-capitalists & Chinese lawmakers slug it out, take part in a poetry slam, and watch the weirdest tea ceremony ever.

DEBUT PERFORMANCE National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
6.30-10pm, Thursday 16th February 2012

What do the humble cup of tea and the opium poppy have in common?

A dastardly tale of imperialism, drugs and warfare, the story of this dark episode in British history is told in The Steampunk Opium Wars, revue written and hosted by Anna Chen inside the belly of the beast, the heart of Empire, the Royal National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Government narco-capitalists and Chinese law-enforcers slug it out in verse, and members of the audience have the chance to write and take part in a Farrago Poetry History Slam.

With music from legendary writer Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague’s Marc “The Exorcist” Jefferies; former Flying Lizards singer Deborah Evans-Stickland singing her mega-hit “Money”; DJ Zoe “Lucky Cat” Baxter of Resonance FM; and Gary Lammin of The Bermondsey Joyriders in the weirdest tea ceremony you’ve ever seen.

Featuring Paul Anderson, John Crow Constable, Neil Hornick, John Paul O’Neill, Hugo Trebels, and Louise Whittle. The poets will have their portraits and poetic extravagances posted in their own page here after the event.

Have your photograph taken in your finest steampunk paraphernalia on stage by Mrs Sukey Parnell, who has exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, and maybe see it displayed on the interwebz.

Come and play with us …

Anna Chen Steampunk Opium Wars National Maritime MuseumPhoto of Anna in the NMM flyer by Jan Jefferies

The Steampunk Opium Wars on Facebook

Who we are and how to find us, click here

Bibliography: The Blood Never Dried by John Newsinger (Bookmarks); Opium by Martin Booth (Simon & Schuster Ltd); The Opium War by Julia Lovell (Picador). Interesting online articles by Justin Kiersky at the Border Arts Project, a Chinese health and education project helping young people whose families have been affected by drug abuse and HIV/Aids.

This stuff is still going on.

Drugs money saved banks in global crisis in 2007.

Banks and drugs in the modern world.

Niall Ferguson and Civilisation

8 Responses to The Steampunk Opium Wars

  1. Will Howley says:

    Opium over 100 years ago was a commodity designed to be part of the British Empire building armory. For the elitist Victorian rulers drugs was a commodity like pork bellies or frozen orange juice but to be used politically to dominate another culture and subjugate a vast country like China.

    Over 100 on the American ‘Empire’ with the help of the declining British used heroin not only destabilizes governments in South East Asia, including Premier Gough Whittlam’s Labour government in Australia but in a crude battle of the Cold-War to defeat Communism.

    In 1988 I interviewed President Carter’s former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner about the Iranian Hostages. But used the opportunity to ask why the ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] had cut a deal in 1943 with the notorious Mafia gangster ‘Lucky’ Luciano who was serving 57 years in ‘Sing-Sing’ prison in up state New York for white slave trade [running prostitutes].

    A deal was made secretly that if the Mafia used it’s ‘influence’ to defeat the Nazi filth columnists on the East Coast harbors which the Mafia controlled using trade unions he would be released.

    In 1947 Lucky Luciano was released from an American jail and lived in exile, still running the New York Mafia, from his traditional home Sicily.

    I asked Admiral Stan Turner was this deal a way that led to the post war explosion of narcotics? And today’s problems with narcotics can be directly related to this pernicious deal…he shrugged his shoulders. I again asked the the relationship with the KMT ‘Kuomintang’ the anti-communists of China who now dealt in opium and heroin?

    His reply was chilling ‘In this business son we have to get into bed with some unsavory characters’ . I looked in amazement…’Heroin dealers?’ He again just shrugged his shoulders in acknowledgement.

  2. Anna says:

    Opium, heroin, slaves, prostitutes, armaments, hedge-funds, “democracy” that ain’t actual democracy, as long as it makes money, Will, capitalism has no morality.

  3. Pingback: THE STEAMPUNK OPIUM WARS: Lin Zexu Just Says No! « Punjapit

  4. Taiy says:

    why not pay the poppy growers to not grow the poppy ?,,,,,,be much ceapher than a big american/uk and other armies,,,,,,,,,,,,ooooopppppps, silly me,,,,,,,,,,,no big drug profits for the real criminals,,,,,,, fatcats wearing suits and living a clean looking life in america, europe,,,,,,uk,,,,,,,,, much better to be at war and the heroine still getting through

  5. opium & child labour put the ‘Great’ into Britain my dear _

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  7. Jane says:

    Google David Sassoon____Sole Monopoly to grow opium in India, and shipped them to China….and then his descendents get to be knighted by none other than the current Queen.

    History is written by winners. And Anna, you are doing a fantastic job of bringing this part if human her-story to the forefront! Thank you!

  8. Anna says:

    Thank you, Jane. So many fortunes were made off the back of this awful narcotics trade. It’s a shame that the powers that be can’t use Afghan poppies for medicine. Thery sell it for destructive purposes but destroy it when big biz (pharma) interests are threatened.

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