Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

The Coastal Opium Trade in 1830s Fujian

This module tells the story of how a transnational coalition of maritime traders came together to operate one of the largest illicit drug markets in history. The importation of opium into China prior to 1832 occurred exclusively in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province, where Fujianese and Cantonese ships would load up on the drug for delivery to other parts of the empire.

By the late 1830s, a huge portion of the import trade had migrated north into Fujian province. Every day after 1834 or so there were around a dozen British ships permanently anchored in strategic bays along the Fujian coast, importing tens of thousands of chests of opium directly into Fujian and exporting jaw-dropping quantities of treasure.

This module allows users to explore this dramatic explosion in the Fujianese opium trade, by focusing on the local story of Shenhu Bay in Jinjiang County, and the interactions between the Shi Lineage of Yakou Village and the Rees brothers of Jardine-Matheson and Dent & Co.

Module Layout

  1. Navigating Sources and Mapping the Opium Trade. Introduces the goals of the module, provides necessary background information, and summarizes my interpretation of the archival sources that make up the two main body paths of the module.
  2. The Case Against Shi Hou: A Qing Document. Constructed out of a primary source from the Qing territorial administration, a criminal case against a man called Shi Hou for escorting British opium ships to his hometown of Yakou Village.
  3. The Jardine-Matheson Global Network. A re-creation of the largest and most influential British opium-trading firm, divided up conceptually and geographically, interspersed with images, videos, and primary source text from the Jardine-Matheson archive.
  4. A Spatial History of Profit. Three short essays on a spatial history of profit and corruption on the Qing maritime frontier.
  5. Conclusion: Space as Process. The concluding page to the module.

Link: Jardine-Matheson Archives Catalog (holdings are at the Cambridge University Library)

Link: First Historical Archives in Beijing

Click here for a list of references for this module, which is also available from the module's Conclusion page.

This page has paths:

Contents of this path:

This page has tags:

This page is referenced by:

This page references: