Chapter

From India to China: P&O and the opium trade, 1845–57

Freda Harcourt

in Flagships of Imperialism

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780719073939
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700761 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719073939.003.0004
From India to China: P&O and the opium trade, 1845–57

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This chapter discusses the role played by the steamships of P&O in the opium trade. P&O started to transport opium from Bombay to China in 1847 and the low volume and high value of opium made it an ideal cargo. Mercantile houses and investors also gained from P&O's steam operations in terms of increased safety, speed and reliability and reduced insurance costs and interest on loans. Back cargoes on the China line to Bombay consisted largely of gold, silver and specie while silk and tea cargoes were taken to Europe. The Calcutta–Hong Kong–Shanghai line of P&O was advertised in 1851 and received no subsidy from the Government. The aim of the line apart from transporting opium was to prevent other influential parties from becoming its strong competitors.

Keywords: steamships; P&O; opium; Bombay; China

Chapter.  12982 words. 

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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