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Title: Opium, the British Empire and the beginnings of an international drugs control regime, ca. 1890-1910
Author: Gibbon, Luke
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 9339
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis will examine British attitudes and agendas during the build-up, proceedings and aftermath of the Shanghai Opium Commission (1909) which marked the first step towards the establishment of an international drugs control regime. The research is presented chronologically and draws on a wide range of primary and secondary source documents, including previously unused material in the National Archives of India. It will assess how far revenue concerns shaped British positions on the questions of the opium traffic and the regulation of opium consumption around the turn of the twentieth century. I argue that a more nuanced and complex appreciation of British positions is necessary in order to understand the foundation years of the international drugs control regime. The British agenda at the Shanghai Opium Commission represented varied and often competing visions of opium regulation held at different levels of the imperial and colonial administration. Moral, political and commercial concerns amongst some British groups motivated their commitment to end the India-China opium trade. The British no longer sought to defend their revenues derived from exports of opium from India to China. Instead the British saw the Shanghai Commission as an opportunity to ensure that the Chinese government fulfilled its own obligations to reduce its domestic production and consumption of opium in line with reductions of Indian exports to China. Nor were the British simply defending their opium revenues from domestic sales to Indian consumers. Instead, the representatives of British colonial governments in Asia, especially India, sought to protect systems of opium regulation which had been elaborated over two hundred years of colonial rule and which colonial administrators believed were tailored towards its maintenance. As such, the British fought to prevent the Commission establishing a principle of non-medicinal opium use which would make illicit widespread quasi-medical and recreational opium consumption. Colonial officials considered such stringent controls antithetical to a colonial policy regulating what they considered as culturally accepted and popular forms of opium consumption. Officials also considered the non-medical prohibition of opium consumption impracticable and, by interfering in the habits and customs of the native population, an unnecessary risk to the security and stability of colonial rule.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available