The Ghazipur Opium Factory
For centuries, India was the largest exporter of opium, accounting for 17-20% of Indian revenues. The export of opium to China began in the 1780's at the urging of the first governor general of British India, Warren Hastings, in an attempt to balance trade with China. At the time, China exported enormous amounts of goods including tea, but imported little from Europe. At first, there wasn't much demand for the drug, but over the next decade demand increased exponentially. Indian farmers were effectively forced to replace their crops with opium poppies, and then sell the resulting harvest back to the British East India Company for a pittance.
Photos: Top: An undated photo believed to be of the Ghazipur Opium Factory from the Wellcome Library. Bottom: A view of the gates of the factory today.
This article was originally published in January 2009, and has been updated for the
September 2009 paperback release.
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