Opium War of 1840–42

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Opium War of 1840–42


(in Russian, Anglo-Chinese War of 1840–42; the so-called first Opium War), an aggressive war waged by England against China in order to turn China into a dependency of England. In June 1840, England launched a plundering attack on China in the area of Kuangchou. The pretext for this attack was the destruction of large supplies of opium—the contraband trade of opium was widely practiced by the English colonialists—in 1839 by the government commissioner, Lin Tse-hsü. Armed conflict between British and Chinese military vessels began as early as the end of 1839. By the middle of 1842, the English had seized Hsiang Kang Island (Hong Kong) and the cities of Tinghai, Ningpo, Hsiamen, Shanghai, and Chenchiang; in August 1842 the British approached Nanking. The popular masses of China resisted the aggressor (the movement of Ping Ying Tuan peasant units in Kuangtung and others). However, the government of the Ch’ing dynasty showed itself completely unable to organize the country’s defense; not wishing to utilize the support of the people in the struggle against the aggressors, it capitulated. On August 29, the first unequal treaty for China was signed, the Treaty of Nanking of 1842.


Marx, K. “Istoriia torgovli opiumom.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 12.
Engels, F. “Novaia ekspeditsiia anglichan v Kitai.” Ibid.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.