Today in World History: August 23rd

The Opium Wars, in which the British and Chinese Empires fought over territorial claims in the Far East, along with the British Empire’s illegal exportation of opium into China’s borders, began in March of 1839,and resulted in a staggering defeat for China. As China had been in a state of isolationism up until the European countries began to make their way east, China had lost its technological advantage it had centuries ago, and began to fall behind the other major nations. By the time the Opium Wars began, China’s army was no match for the European countries, and it suffered heavy losses and was forced to take unfair trade deals, much like Japan. The First Opium War ended in 1842, with the Chinese Empire ceding control over Hong Kong Island to the British Empire, under whose control it would stay until 1984, after a special agreement between England and China. The beginning of Hong Kong’s British Rule was on this day in 1839, as the British Empire prepared for an invasion of China by taking over Hong Kong, turning it into a major British army base, and the possible launch point of a naval invasion. The Second Opium War, from 1856 to 1860, was fought over similar issues, with France and England joining together to defeat China, opening up its ports, legalizing the opium trade, and forcing China to pay large sums of money as reparations.

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