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By the end of the 18th century the principal British export to China was opium (cultivated in Bengal) smuggled in from Chinese waters off Canton (e.g. in 1833, opium constituted half of total British imports to China).

Opium Wars 1839-1842:

1839 - Governor of Canton appointed to clamp down on opium trade ordered surrender of all opium held in stock by foreign merchants (20,000 chests ­150 Ib each - valued at 12 million dollars in 20 foreign vessels in Cantonese waters)

1840 - War declared on China to re-establish opium trade (British Government decided that discontinuation would be disastrous to finances of India)

June 1840 - Invasion of China by "score of warships and 4,000 men" - invasion near town which became Shanghai

August 1842 - Treaty of Nanking, which included:

1 Lasting peace and friendship between the two nations

2 China to pay $21 million over 4 years

3 Parts of Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Wingpo and Shanghai to be opened to British trade (to be self-governing "Treaty Ports")

No mention in Treaty of opium or its traffic

Smuggling increased

China signed other treaties with other Western nations

Treaty of Nanking was a serious blow to the prestige of the Manchu dynasty which had ruled since 1644. Internal strife and resentment towards Manchu dynasty caused a number of rebellions - most serious was T'ai P'ing rebellion (1851-1864) - began as a religious crusade but turned into anti-Manchu drive. Leader assumed title "Heavenly Prince" in 1851 and let it be known that he was going to overthrow reigning dynasty. T'ai P'ing armies conquered most of Southern China by mid-1852 and began to advance down Yangtse valley. Nanking fell to rebels in March 1853. After unsuccessful march on Peking in late 1853 rebels returned to main operational areas of lower Yangtse valley

September 1853 - Thousands of fishermen broke out of overcrowded and squalid districts in Shanghai, killed military commander and occupied city. Leaders of insurrection told consul that they acted on instructions from T'ai P'ing and wanted to be friends with Europeans. Rebels wanted to keep city calm and put up posters announcing thieves would be punished etc. At night, 300 English and American soldiers kept watch over the European Quarter to keep out armed Chinese.


Shanghai is one of the world's largest seaports. The name Shanghai - 'on the sea' - was first used in 960, but it remained a backward fishing village. It was not until 1554 that the town was surrounded by a 21 feet high crenellated city wall and a moat to protect it against the frequent incursion of Japanese pirates. By the 17th century there were signs of growing wealth, but when the British troops stormed its undefended walls in 1842, Shanghai was still only a county town of little importance. By 1863 the international Settlement formed by the Americans and British increased to an area of about 5500 acres. The French Concession was established on164 acres and by the end of the 19th century the Japanese also had secured a concession. These foreign settlements administered themselves and were outside Chinese government jurisdiction.