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The Taiping Rebellion, 1851-1964.docx

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Paul Thompson

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HIS280 The Taiping Rebellion, 1851-1964 March 8th 2012
- Background to the Taiping Rebellion
o The opium trade and its consequences
o The Opium War, 1839-1842, and the Treaty of Nanjing
- The origins and development of the movement
- The loyalist response and the decline of the Rebellion
o Divisions within the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
o Military and fiscal decentralization
o The devastation of the countryside
- The post-Taiping situation and the “pre-death” of the Qing dynasty
Opium, Empire, and the Global Economy
- The Qing Empire goes into decline exactly at the same moment that Europe goes into
- In 1773, the EIC decides to create an opium monopoly around Calcutta
- This means that opium replaces manufactured cloth as Bengal’s major export
- In the mid-18th century in Europe, according to political economic theory, the export of silver
was considered a bad thing because it would lead to dependency
- A country had to have ready stocks of silver
- But, Britain was exporting lots of silver to China for tea, creating a trade deficit
- Because opium was illegal in China and because the EIC didn’t want to lose trading rights in
Canton, it delegated the shipment of opium from Bengal to non-company affiliated county
traders in Canton, who would trade it for silver
- But, the county traders were not allowed, by law, to take silver out of China, so they gave it to
the EIC agents in Canton in exchange for bills of exchange cashable on the London stock market
- The EIC then used the silver to buy tea and take the tea back to England
- What has happened is that instead of Britain paying for its tea from its own silver stocks, its
paying for tea in exchange for silver that’s acquired from selling opium to the Chinese
- Silver is slowly drained out of China, then
- In the early 19th century, there is a new ideology that becomes prevalent in Britain: free trade
- As a result of this new free trade ideology, the EIC’s monopoly in India is revoked
- The Portuguese then start producing opium in India
- The opium trade in China skyrockets
- In 1800 China had a favourable balance of trade with its European trading partners, but by the
1830s due almost exclusively to the opium trade, China has an extremely unfavourably
unbalance of trade
- For large transactions, and for the payment of taxes in China, people used silver
- For everyday life they used copper
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