Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Sea of Poppies

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Sea of Poppies

by Amitav Ghosh

Sea of Poppies
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2008, 528 pages
    Sep 2009, 528 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Beyond the Book

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.

The 200-year old Ghazipur opium factory in India (which figures memorably in Sea of Poppies) continues to be one of the largest opium producers in the world – and certainly the largest legal opium factory. Ghazipur city is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. In Amitav Ghosh'...

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