Britain and China - the Edwardian view

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
Looking into the battle honours of the 49th (Hertfordshire )of Foot, led me to their two year campaign in China.

For those who get tired of the PC driven view , the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica ( which is now digitised and available in its entirety online ) offers a contemporary perspective - replete of course with the casual racism and assumptions of superiority.

ADVISORY
Wikisource:WikiProject 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Notes on reading the Encyclopædia - Wikisource, the free online library


Britain and China have a shared history - which goes back much further than their relationship with the USA.

This short section on The Opium War of 1842 is an example:

(Written by the Sinologist who gave his name to the previous Wade-Giles transliteration of Chinese names - so Peking rather than Beijing, Hangchow rather than Hangzhou and so on )

SOURCE
"....Tao-kwang (1820–1850), the new emperor, though possessed in his early years of considerable energy, had no sooner ascended the throne than he gave himself up to the pursuit of pleasure. The reforms which his first manifestoes foreshadowed never seriously occupied his attention. Insurrection occurred in Formosa, Kwang-si, Ho-nan and other parts of the empire, and the Triad Society, which had originated during the reign of K‛ang-hi, again became formidable.

More important to the future of the country than the internal disturbances was the new attitude taken at this time towards China by the nations of Europe. Hitherto the European missionaries and traders in China had been dependent upon the goodwill of the Chinese. The Portuguese had been allowed to settle at Macao (q.v.) for some centuries; Roman Catholic missionaries since the time of Ricci had been alternately patronized and persecuted; Protestant missionaries had scarcely gained a foothold; the Europeans allowed to trade at Canton continued to suffer under vexatious regulations—the Chinese in general regarded Europeans as barbarians, “foreign devils.” Of the armed strength of Europe they were ignorant. They were now to be undeceived, Great Britain being the first power to take action.

The hardships inflicted on the British merchants at Canton became so unbearable that when, in 1834, the monopoly of the East India Company ceased, the British government sent Lord Napier as minister to superintend the foreign trade at that port.

Lord Napier was inadequately supported, and the anxieties of his position brought on an attack of fever, from which he died at Macao after a few months’ residence in China.

The chief cause of complaint adduced by the mandarins was the introduction of opium by the merchants, and for years they attempted by every means in their power to put a stop to its importation. At length Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir Charles) Elliot, the superintendent of trade, in 1839 agreed that all the opium in the hands of Englishmen should be given up to the native authorities, and he exacted a pledge from the merchants that they would no longer deal in the drug. On the 3rd of April 20,283 chests of opium were handed over to the mandarins and were by them destroyed.

The surrender of the opium led to further demands by Lin Tze-su, the Chinese imperial commissioner, demands which were considered by the British government to amount to a casus belli, and in 1840 war was declared.

In the same year the fleet captured Chusan, and in the following year the Bogue Forts fell, in consequence of which operations the Chinese agreed to cede Hong-Kong to the victors and to pay them an indemnity of 6,000,000 dollars.

As soon as this news reached Peking, Ki Shen, who had succeeded Commissioner Lin, was dismissed from his post and degraded, and Yi Shen, another Tatar, was appointed in his room.

Before the new commissioner reached his post Canton had fallen into the hands of Sir Hugh Gough, and shortly afterwards Amoy, Ning-po, Tinghai in Chusan, Chapu, Shanghai and Chin-kiang Fu shared the same fate.

Nanking would also have been captured had not the imperial government, dreading the loss of the “Southern Capital,” proposed terms of peace. Sir Henry Pottinger, who had succeeded Captain Elliot, concluded, in 1842, a treaty with the imperial commissioners, by which the four additional ports of Amoy, Fu-chow, Ningpo and Shanghai were declared open to foreign trade, and an indemnity of 21,000,000 dollars* was to be paid to the British.



------------------------------------- endit -------------------------------------

Not quite as cut and dried as Left leaning history teachers may choose to believe?

eg ' We forced Opium on the Chinese- and fought a war to make it happen'

.....well, er........



* dollars in this context refers NOT to USD but silver thalers or Maria Theresa dollars, a widely circulated currency in Asia at the time.

 
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Not quite as cut and dried as Left leaning history teachers may choose to believe?
Not quite as cut and dried as Edwardian historians would, either, it seems. The "additional demands" amounted to, "Can you live up to what you promised and not import opium?"

Lin's open letter to Queen Victoria was published in the Times.

We find that your country is sixty or seventy thousand li from China. The purpose of your ships in coming to China is to realize a large profit. Since this profit is realized in China and is in fact taken away from the Chinese people, how can foreigners return injury for the benefit they have received by sending this poison to harm their benefactors?

They may not intend to harm others on purpose, but the fact remains that they are so obsessed with material gain that they have no concern whatever for the harm they can cause to others. Have they no conscience? I have heard that you strictly prohibit opium in your own country, indicating unmistakably that you know how harmful opium is. You do not wish opium to harm your own country, but you choose to bring that harm to other countries such as China. Why?

The products that originate from China are all useful items. They are good for food and other purposes and are easy to sell. Has China produced one item that is harmful to foreign countries? For instance, tea and rhubarb are so important to foreigners' livelihood that they have to consume them every day. Were China to concern herself only with her own advantage without showing any regard for other people's welfare, how could foreigners continue to live?

I have heard that the areas under your direct jurisdiction such as London, Scotland, and Ireland do not produce opium; it is produced instead in your Indian possessions such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Patna, and Malwa. In these possessions the English people not only plant opium poppies that stretch from one mountain to another but also open factories to manufacture this terrible drug.

As months accumulate and years pass by, the poison they have produced increases in its wicked intensity, and its repugnant odor reaches as high as the sky. Heaven is furious with anger, and all the gods are moaning with pain! It is hereby suggested that you destroy and plow under all of these opium plants and grow food crops instead, while issuing an order to punish severely anyone who dares to plant opium poppies again.

A murderer of one person is subject to the death sentence; just imagine how many people opium has killed! This is the rationale behind the new law which says that any foreigner who brings opium to China will be sentenced to death by hanging or beheading. Our purpose is to eliminate this poison once and for all and to the benefit of all mankind.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
Ah yes, the daily consumption of both tea and rhubarb which is so essential to the British way of life, I remember it well. :)

It is beyond question that Britain connived in the production and manufacture of opium, to feed the unquenchable demand for it in Imperial China.

( May I commend to the House Rudyard Kipling's account of his visit to an Indian Govt Bengal Opium factory. He himself, like many of his fellow Anglo-Indians was queasy about the business - it didn't prevent the Raj from turning a significant profit on the trade)


However most of this tea came from China, and Britain was not happy with their trade practices, which kept strict rules on trade and foreigners. For example, all foreign traders had to go through a body of Chinese merchants to conduct any trade, while they could only live in certain places and were denied full entry to the country.

China also only accepted silver, something Britain was lacking in, since a shortage in the 1790s. The British were operating on a trade deficit and this had to come to an end. They decided to counter-trade opium against Chinese tea which proved incredibly lucrative. Between 1821 and 1836, sales of opium increased fivefold. During the 1838 trade season there could have been as much as 2553 tonnes entering the country.
 
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Ironically, we used to be a nation of coffee drinkers before the China trade took off.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
The 1911 Britannica is immense fun, provided one recognises that it is very much of it's time...

This on the port of Foochow ( now Fuzhou)

The number of vessels that entered in 1876 was 275, and of these 211 were British, 27 German, 11 Danish and 9 American. While in 1904, 480 vessels entered the port, 216 of which were British.

A large trade is carried on by the native merchants in timber, paper, woollen and cotton goods, oranges and olives; but the foreign houses mainly confine themselves to opium and tea. Commercial intercourse with Australia and New Zealand is on the increase.

The principal imports, besides opium, are shirtings, T-cloths, lead and tin, medicines, rice, tobacco, and beans and peas. Two steamboat lines afford regular communication with Hong-Kong twice a month. The town is the seat of several important missions, of which the first was founded in 1846. That supported by the American board had in 1876 issued 1,3000,000 copies of Chinese books and tracts.


[ China was seen as fertile ground for Christian missionaries, not least because the Catholic church had been active in China since the 16th Century]


'....historian Kathleen Lodwick estimates that some 50,000 foreigners served in mission work in China between 1809 and 1949, including both Protestants and Catholics.'


A friend's mum was born there, daughter of a Methodist couple who worked in Shanghai.

'.....After the victory of the Chinese Communist armies in 1949 and suppression of religion, the members of all missionary societies departed or were expelled from China. Missionaries Arthur Matthews (an American) and Dr. Rupert Clark (British) were placed under house arrest but were finally allowed to leave in 1953. Their wives, Wilda Matthews and Jeannette Clark, had been forced to leave with other missionaries before this. The China Inland Mission was the last Protestant missionary society to leave China.

In 1900 there were an estimated 100,000 Protestants in China. By 1950 the number had increased to 700,000, an impressive number but still far less than one percent of the total Chinese population. Helped by strong leaders such as John Sung, Wang Ming-Dao, and Andrew Gih, the Chinese Protestant Christian churches became an indigenous movement
. '
 
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(...) * dollars in this context refers NOT to USD but silver thalers or Maria Theresa dollars, a widely circulated currency in Asia at the time. (...)
Not exactly. "Dollars" in this context refers to the Spanish or Latin American silver peso or reals. The silver peso was commonly referred to as the "dollar" in English, because "dollar" had come to mean more or less any foreign silver currency due to the Maria Theresa dollar's widespread use in Europe. The silver peso and the Maria Theresa dollar however were different currencies, containing different weights of silver. Remember that silver was money, and silver coins were simply a convenient pre-measured quantity of silver. If you read some 19th century books you may see references to "dollars mex", which refer to Mexican or Peruvian silver pesos.

The silver peso was used all over the word, but large quantities were shipped to China and used in trade. The Chinese regarded it as the only readily acceptable foreign currency.

The US adopted the Spanish "dollar" as their currency after they inflated their own currency (the continental) into worthlessness.

It was adopted in BNA (British North America, or BNA, that is pre-confederation Canada) because Spanish silver pesos were available via trade with the Caribbean, while English coins were scarce due to the existence of a sophisticated banking system which didn't require overseas payments to be shipped as actual coins. Official adoption trailed everyday practical usage by many years, and various systems for converting accounts written in sterling to physical coinage in dollars were used in different colonies.

The Singapore dollar originated in the same way as in BNA. It was a widely used currency in south east Asia due to the large quantities arriving from the South American mines in trade in the early 19th century. Official attempts to make the rupee the official currency didn't get anywhere because there were simply a lot more Spanish dollars in circulation locally than rupees.

China imported so many silver pesos that it became their default national currency, and their accounts were therefore calculated in it. They referred to it as the "yuan", although I don't know the origin of that name. "Dollar" is simply the name we used in English.

Many Spanish silver pesos had a symbol stamped on them which was a pair of pillars, symbolising the "Pillars of Hercules" (the straits of Gibraltar), wrapped with a heraldic scroll in an "S" pattern. That if course leads to "$" being used as shorthand for silver pesos in accounts. Another possible source is Ps (pesos) being written shorthand as the "s" and "P" superimposed, with the loop on the "P" being eventually dropped.

To use your own reference:
The Spanish piece-of-eight (reals) was also commonly referred to as a dollar.
and:
These Spanish pieces-of-eight were also current in the Spanish-American colonies, and were very largely used in the British North American colonies. As the reckoning was by pounds, shillings and pence in the British-American colonies, great inconveniences naturally arose, but these were to some extent lessened by the adoption of a tariff list, by which the various gold and silver coins circulating were rated.
and also:
The Spanish piece-of-eight was also the ancestor of the Mexican dollar, the Newfoundland dollar, the British dollar circulating in Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements, and the dollar of the South American republics, although many of them are now dollars only in name.

So accounts relating to Chinese "dollars" are actually referring to Spanish or Latin American silver pesos. The Japanese also adopted it as well as the "yen".

The Maria Theresa dollar on the other hand was widely used in the Middle East, even up into relatively recent times. If you read Wilfred Theiseger's "Arabian Sands" you will see that he took a large quantity of Maria Theresa dollars with him when he explored the remote parts of the Arabian Peninsula in the late 1940s as it was the widely accepted currency there.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
Good stuff Terminal, thanks......every day a college day on Arrse (for those with open minds at least !) :)
 
Ah yes, the daily consumption of both tea and rhubarb which is so essential to the British way of life, I remember it well. :)

It is beyond question that Britain connived in the production and manufacture of opium, to feed the unquenchable demand for it in Imperial China.

( May I commend to the House Rudyard Kipling's account of his visit to an Indian Govt Bengal Opium factory. He himself, like many of his fellow Anglo-Indians was queasy about the business - it didn't prevent the Raj from turning a significant profit on the trade)


However most of this tea came from China, and Britain was not happy with their trade practices, which kept strict rules on trade and foreigners. For example, all foreign traders had to go through a body of Chinese merchants to conduct any trade, while they could only live in certain places and were denied full entry to the country.

China also only accepted silver, something Britain was lacking in, since a shortage in the 1790s. The British were operating on a trade deficit and this had to come to an end. They decided to counter-trade opium against Chinese tea which proved incredibly lucrative. Between 1821 and 1836, sales of opium increased fivefold. During the 1838 trade season there could have been as much as 2553 tonnes entering the country.
indicating that absolutely nothing changes. In my old line of work the concept that drugs are smuggled direct from the growers may be true, but they are also currencies in their own right and it was quite common to find drugs swapped for guns or between different drugs dependent on market conditions. V interesting both.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
There is a parallel between The Opium Wars of the Victorian era and the modern War on Drugs waged by the USA.

In the Victorian era, the Raj (see post above) used Opium as a currency in its dealings with Imperial China.

Today, a number of Latin American economies revolve around the production, manufacture and sale of coca.

Victorians could say to China : ' We are only supplying your insatiable appetitie for opium '

The DEA can only say to America : ' THEY are only supplying our insatiable appetite for cocaine ' .

Until Peruvian Marching Powder is as abhorrent to wealthy middle-class Yanqis as heroin or crack, the economies of Latin America will continue to be skewed by the endless demand for their product.
 
Ah, the Good Old Days, when we could rape, pillage and burn inferior nations like China to our heart's content. Nowadays we're not even allowed to call them nasty words on Facebook. How the mighty have fallen! :)
 
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Not exactly. "Dollars" in this context refers to the Spanish or Latin American silver peso or reals. The silver peso was commonly referred to as the "dollar" in English, because "dollar" had come to mean more or less any foreign silver currency due to the Maria Theresa dollar's widespread use in Europe. The silver peso and the Maria Theresa dollar however were different currencies, containing different weights of silver. Remember that silver was money, and silver coins were simply a convenient pre-measured quantity of silver. If you read some 19th century books you may see references to "dollars mex", which refer to Mexican or Peruvian silver pesos.

The silver peso was used all over the word, but large quantities were shipped to China and used in trade. The Chinese regarded it as the only readily acceptable foreign currency.

The US adopted the Spanish "dollar" as their currency after they inflated their own currency (the continental) into worthlessness.

It was adopted in BNA (British North America, or BNA, that is pre-confederation Canada) because Spanish silver pesos were available via trade with the Caribbean, while English coins were scarce due to the existence of a sophisticated banking system which didn't require overseas payments to be shipped as actual coins. Official adoption trailed everyday practical usage by many years, and various systems for converting accounts written in sterling to physical coinage in dollars were used in different colonies.

The Singapore dollar originated in the same way as in BNA. It was a widely used currency in south east Asia due to the large quantities arriving from the South American mines in trade in the early 19th century. Official attempts to make the rupee the official currency didn't get anywhere because there were simply a lot more Spanish dollars in circulation locally than rupees.

China imported so many silver pesos that it became their default national currency, and their accounts were therefore calculated in it. They referred to it as the "yuan", although I don't know the origin of that name. "Dollar" is simply the name we used in English.

Many Spanish silver pesos had a symbol stamped on them which was a pair of pillars, symbolising the "Pillars of Hercules" (the straits of Gibraltar), wrapped with a heraldic scroll in an "S" pattern. That if course leads to "$" being used as shorthand for silver pesos in accounts. Another possible source is Ps (pesos) being written shorthand as the "s" and "P" superimposed, with the loop on the "P" being eventually dropped.

To use your own reference:

and:

and also:


So accounts relating to Chinese "dollars" are actually referring to Spanish or Latin American silver pesos. The Japanese also adopted it as well as the "yen".

The Maria Theresa dollar on the other hand was widely used in the Middle East, even up into relatively recent times. If you read Wilfred Theiseger's "Arabian Sands" you will see that he took a large quantity of Maria Theresa dollars with him when he explored the remote parts of the Arabian Peninsula in the late 1940s as it was the widely accepted currency there.
The name dollar just happens to be a transliteration of the Thaler
 
The name dollar just happens to be a transliteration of the Thaler
Yes, I believe "dollar" in English arose due to how the Dutch pronounced Thaler and how the English became familiar with the coin via trade with the Dutch.

Thaler comes from Joachimsthal, which translates to "Saint Joachim's Valley". It was in a major silver mining region of Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic.
 

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