The Tumultuous Nineteenth Century: External Aggression and Internal Chaos


During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the British, having failed to persuade China to alter its business and diplomatic practices to their own liking, and aghast that the Chinese would dare attempt to interdict British narcotics trafficking, simply bullied their way into China and imposed their will on the hapless nation through brute force. The Opium War, fought between the two nations from 1840 to 1841, ended with British victory and the Treaty of Nanking, which compelled Qing China to cede the island of Hong Kong to the British crown in perpetuity, pay Britain an enormous war indemnity, and open several coastal cities to British residence and trade. The Opium War and its aftermath inaugurated China’s “Century of Humiliation,” which endured until 1949 and the final victory of the Chinese Communist revolution. During this long and challenging century, the British, and also other foreign powers following at their heels, dominated but never quite subjugated the Chinese. China did manage to escape the utter ignominy of India, which was completely conquered and incorporated into the British empire.

The main grievances the British had with the Chinese concerned com-


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The History of China


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