Group 2

- Amitav Ghosh
“To the world at large, the whole fact that 90 % of the opium that went to China came from India — that itself was very little known. In general, the reality of the opium trade, the part it played in forming modern capitalism and the modern world, is just obscure and occluded."

Arnab| Ankur| Soham| Sudip| Shrikant

Book – The River of Smoke Author – Amitav Ghosh Part of – Ibis trilogy (Volume 2 of the trilogy) Genre – Fiction Sub-genre - Alternate history/ Literary fantasy/ Realistic fantasy
Major characters – Bahram Modi, Robin Chinnery, Lin Zexu, Neel, Vico, Chi Mei, Fitcher Penrose, Ah Fatt, Paulette Lambert

Set in – Fanqui town Mode of narration • Narrative point of view • Alternating first and third person narrative • Narrative voice • Character voice • Narrative tense • Past tense

Building the book
• Three ships get caught in a raging storm of the coast of Canton. They escape their ships and manage to reach Canton. The book traces their lives • Set in mid- 19th century China, it contains a rich collection of characters from varied cultures and geographies glued by their common intent to trade with China • Bahram Modi is a Parsi trader who hails from Mumbai. He owns the ship Anahita, one among the three ships in the book, the others being Redruth and Ibis. He sets off on one final voyage to China despite embargo on trade by Chinese authorities • Robert Chinnery, one of the great Chinese artists is also a central character in the book • Fanqui town, a small enclave, populated by traders, is at the center-stage

The lead-up
The novel which ends in 1939, leads straight up to the Opium war where the British faced with the loss of trade wreck havoc on China force them into a unilateral submission to the Nanking treaty of 1942

Staging the book
• Using many languages and a dense description the author paints a great open-air market ruled by Opium trade • Behind the scene is the larger political arena – The British desire for tea, growing riches in England, India and Chinese traders, the trade embargo imposed by the Chinese government which itself is cluttered hierarchical mix of the Emperor, many Mandarins and influential people. • Just when too much of history starts to gets boring, the author sprinkles it with colorful tales of the characters. Humor, though not absent, is a rare artifact • The text which is never fast-moving, almost stalls when traders wait for the Chinese reaction when the Imperial government closes the harbors for trade

Bahram Modi
•Main character of story, Opium trader from India, Father-in-law – well established capitalist •Foresees the potential for International Business with China in trading Opium, business florishes •Finds himself caught between the conflict of opium trade

Fredrick Penrose
•Noted nursery man and plant hunter •Nursery named Penrose and Sons, Falmouth, UK •Reputed for Chinese imports of commercial value •Captain of the vessel – Redruth •On an expedition to China to collect rare plants

•Daughter of a French botanist •In search for the rare Golden Camellias •Supporting role in the novel – known through the letter written by Robin

Robin Chinnery
• Character of a parallel story • Son of George Chinnery; friend of Paulette • Deep bonding with the Cantonese people • Letters written to Paulette gives an different artistic perspective

• Once regal landowner • Escaped prison sentence in Mauritius and became a Munshi under Bahram • Serves the reader still another angle on the affairs of Canton

Zadig Karabedian
• Half-Armenian, halfEgyptian • Watchmaker, do not deal with opium • Assumes less risk and retains a clean conscience – not concerned in making high profit

Several other characters ( Deeti, Ah Fatt, Zachary Reid, Vico etc .) dangling between India and China bring cultural diversity

Route for Botanical Trade

• •

Amitav Ghosh depicts the search for an exotic Chinese plant, “The Golden Camellia” known to an Englishman Mr. Fredrick Penrose aka ‘Fitcher only through its representation in a painting. In the sea of Poppies, Ghosh had shown Paulette's history as the daughter of a botanist. In River of Smoke she goes to work for an English nurseryman who wants to import Chinese plants to Europe and America. Through letters to Paulette from an (Robin Chinnery) living in the foreign enclave at Canton, we hear about art, plants, gardens, the layout the city, the local society of the inhabitants.

At one point, memory carries Bahram and his old friend the watchmaker Zadig back to the time their ship stopped on St Helena and their meeting with the imprisoned Napoleon. Great Nicobar Islands Birds- hinlene found on the island Source of wealth due immense value of their nests at other countries like China Nests called ‘yan wo’ in Canton, chinese people boiled the nests and ate them Highlights the concept of village headman – Omjah Kurrah who ensures equitable division of proceeds emerging from business activities


Mumbai to Guangzhou : the opium trade route

The Pearl river was like a funnel through which goods entered and exited China. The landscape is like a triangle . At either end of the mouth of the Pearl river, and Hong Kong at the other end. As one goes inland, the Pearl river narrows and grows more crowded until it reaches Guangzhou, which is Canton.

• Canton System forbade Europeans from entering the country and restricted business to one port, Canton, on the mouth of the Pearl River. The East India Company, under a charter from the Crown, had a monopoly of trade with India and China. The E.I.C. purchased silks and tea from the Chinese but had little to offer in return except silver . Attempts by the British, the Dutch , Russia and the British yet again to negotiate access to the China market were resounding failures.

• • The humongous demand for TEA in Europe caused a massive economic deficit as European nations bought it with large quantities of silver. By 1817, the British hit upon counter-trading in a narcotic, Indian opium, as a way to both reduce the trade deficit and finally gain profit from the formerly money-losing Indian colony. Two developments in the 1830s undermined this relatively stable 'Canton system':  the significant expansion of opium smuggling  the rise of free-trade imperialism.

Two Opium Wars, also known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars, were fought between the British Empire and China from 1839 to 1842, and from 1856 to 1860. The genesis of the war can be traced to Tea.

• Since the Chinese government had repeatedly banned opium smoking, the E.I.C. preferred to sell its production at annual auctions in Calcutta to licensed private firms so as not to jeopardise its legal trade in tea. • The profits from the E.I.C.'s auctions contributed significantly to the revenue of the government of British India From the 1820s onwards British trade with China was in surplus, as the huge outflow of silver used to buy opium greatly exceeded the money the traders paid for Chinese tea.

• The Qing government tolerated the importation of opium because • it imposed an indirect tax on Chinese subjects, • Allowed the British to double tea exports from China to England, which profited the monopoly for tea exports of the Qing imperial treasury and its agents. However, by 1820, the planting of tea in the Indian and African colonies, along with accelerated opium consumption, reversed the flow of silver

• By infiltrating the system and creating an enormous demand for the drug, which fetched huge prices, Western traders set up a sophisticated smuggling operation that frayed relations between the two powers and escalated into war.

• • Some competition came from the newly independent United States, which began selling Turkish opium in the 1820s. Portuguese traders also brought opium from the independent Malwa states of western India However by 1820, the British were able to restrict this trade by charging "pass duty" on the opium when it was forced to pass through Bombay to reach an entrepot.

• • • The Chinese did not exercise authority on offshore islands. The mainland was strictly under their control but they considered a lot of the islands interstitial and did not try to extend their authority to them. The mouth of the Pearl river is dotted with thousands of islands, which in those days were used by pirates. The British took big ships to Lintin island (Small island at the mouth of the pearl river), anchored them there, took off their masts and left the hulls. The hulls became 'receiving ships' -- they were like floating platforms. The British and Indians would pick up opium from Bombay and Calcutta, take it to Lintin Island and offload it onto these ships.

Ingenious and Sophisticated Smuggling Operation
• • Lintin island is not far from the shore and from those ships, the merchants would carry away the opium in fastcrabs, which were very fast boats with about 60 oarsmen. The opium would be taken to the mainland but the merchants had their hands clean.

The Viceroy of Guangdong began efforts to constrain the trade, but due to large increases in the supply of opium, the large coast line of South China, and corruption these efforts failed A formidable bureaucrat Lin was sent to Guangdong as imperial commissioner by the emperor in late 1838 to halt the illegal importation of opium . He made a huge impact on the opium trade within a matter of months. He arrested more than 1,700 Chinese opium dealers and confiscated over 70,000 opium pipes.

It is often said that the 'Opium War' was not fought over opium but in the name of free trade The concept of Laissez-faire was eulogized by the Europeans after the industrial revolution

Pros & Cons of Free Trade
    Comparative Advantage Protectionism leads to increase in prices Healthy competition Interdependence of nations Economic growth of the region Introduction of capital and technology Democratization & transparency     Threats to domestic industries Exploitation of infant industries Endangered Security Loss of historical industries ( Cultural Imperialism) Trade used as a policy tool Too much dependency on few products Development of powerful trade blocs

China: After the Opium Wars
First Opium war broke out in 1838 1842, Nanjing Treaty signed, severe clauses levied on China Britain gets the favored nation status 1856: spread of imperialism, renegotiates clauses of treaty Break out of 2nd Opium War 1911 downfall of Qing Empire

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 The opium trade was not considered illegal by the Christian Church due to the fact In Europe opium was uses as a mode of medication.  Due to the cultural difference the Christian community not able to identify the usage of opium as a drug in China and surrounding countries.  It led to spread of Christianity in the Indian sub-continent. Christianity became synonymous to opium trade  Opium became a major contributor to the revenue of the EIC. Economic vs ethical debates arose leading to the formation of the anti- opium regime in Europe

 Has tried to revive the past in the form of a dialogue  No one sided portrayal of the situations, open for interpretation by the reader  Canton shown as a mix of cultures and language, has highlighted the beauty of the city amidst the opium menace  Usage of mixed languages, 1st and 3rd person makes the depiction more real  Has built a bridge between fiction and history

Usage of anachronistic cynicism. “Democracy is a wonderful thing,” Bahram observes to a British merchant. “It is a marvellous tamasha that keeps the common people busy so that men like ourselves can take care of all matters of importance. I hope one day India will also be able to enjoy these advantages – and China too, of course.”

“Do you think they will remember what we went through?” Bahram muses as he watches young Indian Parsis playing cricket in Canton. “Will they remember that it was the money we made here, the lessons we learned and the things we saw that made it all possible? Will they remember that their future was bought at the price of millions of Chinese lives?” That is a haunting question. And there will be more, undoubtedly, when the final instalment of the Ibis trilogy arrives.

The illegal sale of opium became one of the world's most valuable single commodity trades and has been called "the most long continued and systematic international crime of modern times.“


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