What frightens even more is that this was a very Scottish holocaust inflicted on the Chinese with Glasgow playing an infamous role in what must still rank as the very worst poison of the lethal cocktail of imperialism, colonialism , international man-made mass murder in what can only be called the perfect storm of Capitalism laid bare for all to see.
Glasgow has been slowly , far behind Hull,Liverpool and Bristol, dealing with its history of slavery and exploitation in the Caribbean. But there are other conflicts less well known and equally important. In association with the Confucius Institute, Stuart Kelly and Brian Holton discussed the role Glasgow and Scotland played in the 19th century Opium Wars, from the burning of the Peking Library to the “industrial espionage” of tea cultivation, as well as belated one-sided moves towards peace and reconciliation.The positive aspect of this event was the interest attracting a large audience which made the organisers have to move it to a larger hall which was to capacity.
Like India before it fell sway to British Influence , China was one of the worlds richest economies , self-sufficient and only trading in silver with the european powers.It was also technologically advanced to have superior yields of agricultural production than Britain achieved even after the Industrial revolution had transformed the British country side to produce foodstuffs for the expanding cities.All indices about disease prevention were also superior to the UK at the time.
Tea was a vital resource for the British exchequer , a tenth of all duties came from tea , enough to found the Royal Navy for six months of the year.Nearly half of Europes gold flowed into the Chinese treasury , a crippling amount that Britain could not afford over a long period.Hence the desire to discover the secret of Chinas tea production and make it on British dominated lands in India.Another problem was what could be sold to China instead of Silver , the answers came from Scotland , the very British mixture of one of the biggest acts of Industrial espionage and the most blatant and grotesque Wars to sell narcotics ever waged.
This article from The Scotsman tells of the scottish connection to the Opium wars.
"A great proponent of Adam Smith, Matheson saw in China the obvious necessity for free trade.
"Did not the laws of nature," he asked, "oblige all people to mingle freely with each other?" His conclusion was obvious. China must open and he believed Britain would do it.
So began a process which historian and broadcaster Saul David considers to be one of the most unforgivable acts of empire, saying:
"It was one of the blackest marks in the Imperial story, capitalism and mercantilism at its worst.""
This segment of a BBC documentary gives a synopsis of the conditions prior to the Opium Wars
And the video below has the Global Launch of the Book "The Opium War" by Julia Lovell
This article by Mark Sutherland-Fisher puts to rest the notion of Scots being the first victims of the English rather than the architects of British Imperialism and Colonialism which historians are finding to be the case.
"In truth the wealth and grandeur of Glasgow and some other places in
Lanarkshire and West Central Scotland were funded by some of the darkest
activities of Scots in the past 300 years. However remember we cannot impose
on our ancestors the moral high ground we consider entitled to in the early
21st century. Probably in 300 years our descendants will look back and be
equally disgusted by things we have done or have sanctioned today.
If you are lucky enough to be in Glasgow on a day when it is not raining,
then just walk around with your eyes open and upwards, admire the stunning
architecture, visit the world famous galleries and see the impressive
exhibits. Just don't ponder too long on how they were paid for and the
manner in which they were acquired!