Historian and presenter Michael Wood investigates the causes, events and consequences of the Opium War 1838-1842. Michael visits a tea market, to see the importance of the tea trade to Britain. The role of the British East India Company in expanding the tea trade, and then the opium trade, is discussed with Professor Zheng Yangwen of Manchester University. Opium was grown in British India, and smuggled into China. When the Chinese resisted the opium trade and destroyed all the British Opium, this led to war. The Chinese army and navy were no match for the British navy. As a result of losing the Opium War, China was forced to sign what the Chinese call the 'unequal treaties,' and give ports to Britain and other foreign powers. The Chinese refer to this period as the 'Century of Humiliation.' Contains some moderate violence which younger viewers may find upsetting. Teacher review prior to use in class is recommended.
Students could discuss if the trade in opium developed by the East India Company was a direct result of the trade in tea? Students could consider why was China unable to stop the trade in opium, and why China lost the war? What was the impact on Britain, and China, and what the Opium War tells us about the growth of Britain's military and economic power in the 19th century?