Modern China and Opium

A Reader
Alan Baumler, Editor
An intriguing historical examination of China's widespread opium epidemic


The Chinese struggle to create a modern nation was tied closely to the opium trade. Throughout much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, China's economy, politics, and society were steeped in opium and opium money. All of China's modern governments took the crusade to liberate the nation from this "plague" as one of their essential tasks. However, the opium problem proved to be more complex than many had imagined. There was much disagreement over both the nature of the problem and the solution. Was opium a relatively harmless substance—only a danger to the weak-willed—or a poison that would inevitably destroy the nation? How could the state control this slippery substance and the people who used it? These were more than abstract questions, as all Chinese states profited from the opium trade and most Chinese either used the substance or knew people who did.

By presenting a selection of original source readings from the Qing dynasty, the Republic, and the Communist government, this book makes comprehensible the many debates among Chinese involving opium in the modern period. The readings are drawn from a variety of sources including memoirs, diplomatic reports, and journals. It will be of particular interest to students of modern China.

Alan Baumler is Assistant Professor of History, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a very timely and much needed addition to the existing literature, providing a set of documents which will introduce many readers to some of the key developments in the economy and politics of opium."
    --Frank Dikotter, China Quarterly, 2002
  • "The book is well suited to undergraduate classroom use by a teacher who knows a fair amount about modern Chinese history. . . . The book successfully captures the salient presence of opium in modern Chinese history for common Chinese people and their leaders, as well as foreign merchants and their governments. It offers the student reader a variety of entry points into this most vexing and fascinating subject."
    --R. Bin Wong, University of California, Irvine, China Review, Fall 2002
  • "Alan Baumler presents a compilation of readings that touches on different aspects of opium, making his volume a good choice as an introductory text for students and general readers who are interested in the history of opium and modern Chinese society."
    --Zhou Yongming, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Journal of Asian Studies, November 2002
  • ". . . a wonderful book for readers who are interested in the process by which China was transformed into a 'sleeping tiger' during the colonial era."
    --M. Emdad-ul Haq, Pacific Affairs, Spring 2003

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted December 2001.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 200pp.
  • 1 drawing, 12 tables, 2 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06768-8

Add to Cart
  • $30.95 U.S.