"Opium was a minor cause of the first Opium War"

Essay by coconut_bananaHigh School, 11th gradeA, August 2005

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"Opium was a minor cause of the first Opium War"

The statement that Opium was a minor cause of the first Opium War is one with a great deal of substantiality. The war arose from a great number of factors primarily arising from an imbalance of trade and cultural clashes, both of which were exacerbated by the opium trade, but both of which existed before and during the opium trade as independent agents that could have individually caused conflict.

A primary reason for misunderstandings between China and Britain was there very different social structure. In China, primarily due to a Confucius ideology, merchants were held at the bottom of the social scale. They were seen as parasites, growing wealth by stealing from others. In England, however, merchants were a highly esteemed class, many of which married into the royal classes, and assumed highly valued positions. They were a strong party that had to be taken seriously before elections into parliament and one which therefore had its views strongly represented at the very top.

The primary problem with such different social values surrounding a common social group is the idea in China that people do not converse with members of society of a far lower social status. Here the merchants faced a great problem, many Chinese officials refused to speak directly with the British merchants which in many cases led to great frustration and delays in an industry were time was an essential player. Such cause for hostility existed before mass imports of opium and remained a constant cause of anger until latter treaties after the first opium war.

A further cause for conflict was in grained in the Chinese culture. The Chinese saw themselves as the most superior race, and everyone else as barbarians, and as they were the...