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Opium in British Burma, 1826-1881.

When the British East India Company annexed Arakan and Tenasserim in 1826 it introduced state supervised opium sales into its new territories. From this date until 1948, when Burma became an independent republic, opium sales were legal in some or all areas of Burma, to some or all members of Burma's population. Although Burma was a province of British India until 1935, the incorporation of Burma into British India was always uneasy, and colonial officials generally recognized that when it came to opium regulation in particular, Burma was a "special case." (1)

The opium trade in Burma, in contrast to the Indo-Chinese trade, has been very little studied since the end of the colonial era in Burma. (2) The only major post-1948 work specifically concerned with the opium trade in Burma is Ronald D. Renard's monograph The Burmese Connection, which, setting out to analyze the trade from its beginnings in the early 19th century to the late 20th century, does not discuss the colonial period in great detail. (3) Renard's section on opium in colonial Burma focuses on the way in which British rule disrupted the social constraints that protected traditional Burmese society from opium abuse, and briefly discusses the differing attitudes and cultural contexts of opium use among the various ethnic groups within Burma.

Bertil Lintner describes Burma at the close of the 20th century as "a colonial creation rife with internal contradictions and divisions." (4) Colonial opium policy reflected these contradictions and divisions. While opium is only infrequently mentioned in standard histories of colonial Burma, (5) the place of opium in the lands on the periphery of Burma has received more attention from journalists and historians. (6) Robert Maule has relatively recently examined opium policy in the Shan States in the 1930s and 1940s as an aspect of British imperial rule in Burma. (7) The course of opium policy in what British administrators often referred to as "Burma proper" diverged from policy in the lands on the Burmese periphery. While this article ends with the Aitchison memorandum of 1881, and so will focus on opium policy in Lower Burma, including the provinces of Arakan, Tenasserim and Pegu, it is important to remember that the Shan and Kachin, and other ethnic groups who lived within the boundaries of post-1885 colonial Burma, had their own experience of opium use and cultivation which was distinct from that of the ethnic Burmese.

Opium policy in Burma was influenced both by developments within Burma and by debates on opium taking place in London. The ideology of the 19th century British anti-opium movement, and its relation to the wider imperial project have most notably been analyzed in Virginia Berridge's Opium and the People and J.B. Brown's 1973 article "Politics of the Poppy: The Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade." (8) Both of these works discuss the Society's campaign to end the opium trade and opium use in China, India and Britain. While the opium trade with China was the primary focus of the Society's work, the Society was aware of and working to end the opium trade in Burma from the first year of its formation. There was also a surprising degree of awareness of and concern with the opium trade in Burma among other social reform groups, such as those concerned with temperance and with social purity.

The Royal Commission on Opium of 1893-1895 was a milestone in the history of imperial opium policy, and in recent years the methodology and conclusions of the Commission have been subject to reassessment. John F. Richard's article "Opium and the British Indian Empire: The Royal Commission of 1895" defends the conclusions of the Commission, as being culturally sensitive, and appropriate for India. (9) In contrast, Paul C. Winther's Anglo-European Science and the Rhetoric of Empire argues that ultimately the Royal Commission upheld a faulty view of opium's efficacy against malaria, and that this served as "a tactic to preserve British hegemony in South Asia." (10)

This article aims to contribute towards fleshing out the history of early British opium policy in colonial Burma. The scope of this article encompasses the period between the annexation of Arakan and Tenasserim in 1826 and the publication of Charles Aitchison's memorandum in 1881; it will stop short of discussing the Royal Commission. However, the described developments in opium policy during this period would ultimately influence the Commission's conclusions.

The East India Company's opium monopoly

European merchants began to participate in the Southeast Asian trade in opium in the 17th century. By the 1650s, the Dutch East India Company was buying up opium produced in Bihar and west Bengal at Patna from Indian merchants, and transporting it to Southeast Asia. In 1708, the British East India Company started participating in the trade. (11) In 1763, the British East India Company captured Patna in Bihar, gaining control over most of the opium produced in the region, and did its best to exclude all other nationalities from dealing in opium. (12)

In 1772, Warren Hastings was made Governor of Bengal "with instructions from the East India Company to reform its administration." (13) Between 1763 and 1772 the opium trade was usually monopolized by servants of the East India Company at Patna, although opium smuggling persisted. (14) Hastings instituted a system whereby a contract giving a monopoly in opium dealing for one year was sold to one person (in 1778 the contract sold was for three years). (15) The peasant opium cultivators were paid for their crop in a series of advances, and the opium was sold at auction in Calcutta to merchants who transported it onwards to China and Southeast Asia. (16)

In 1797, after the contract system proved subject to abuse--cultivators were being forced to sell their opium at less than production price, and opium was frequently adulterated--an agency system was instituted. (17) The opium production that the East India Company controlled, and that was regulated by the agency system, was grown in the northwest region of India, and was one of two types--Patna opium, which was grown in Bihar, and Benares opium, which was grown in the northwest provinces. However, the opium poppy was also cultivated in west and central India. (18)

Having seen the success of the trade in Patna and Benares opium, local cultivators and merchants in Malwa and western India increased their own production of opium to sell to the profitable Southeast Asian and Chinese markets. This third variety of opium was known as Malwa opium. The East India Company was not pleased by the rise of a competitor. However, the Company did not have political control over the areas in which the opium was grown. After trying various measures to suppress this trade, and eliminate the competition overseas, the Company decided that the best way of reducing competition, and deriving a profit from this opium, was to charge a pass duty on all opium that left the country through Bombay. This was the most convenient port from which to export opium, and the pass duties were kept low enough to encourage producers of Malwa opium to participate in this system. (19) Some of the Malwa opium that reached Bombay was retained for excise use.

After the government of India took over the opium monopoly from the East India Company in 1857, the system of opium growth and production remained basically unchanged. After the raw opium was harvested, it was manufactured at one of two agencies, the Behar agency or the Benares agency. Once the opium was harvested, collected, and processed at one of the two agencies, it was shipped to Bombay. From Bombay, approximately 90% of the opium was purchased and shipped overseas by private merchants. (20) The remaining 10% was kept back. Some of it was used for medical purposes, and the rest was sold under the excise system to the provinces of British India, including Burma.

Excise opium was supplied at cost to provincial Indian governments. The governments issued this opium to licensed dealers, who had bought their license either for a fixed fee or at auction. (21) Not only was significantly more opium sold to China and Southeast Asia than to India and Burma, even the units by which it was sold overseas were larger. While the opium sent to China was shipped by the chest, the opium sold in India was sold in small amounts. (22)

This system of selling government licensed opium to make a profit from the excise revenue would be extended to Arakan and Tenasserim when these provinces were annexed by the British in 1826. The initial form the system took was that of opium farming. Under this so-called opium farming system, licenses to sell opium were auctioned off to the highest bidder. A limited number of licenses to sell opium, known as opium farms, were available, and were sold on a yearly basis. In theory, this system would limit the amount of opium available, by restricting the number of sellers, while increasing government revenue by the sale of the licenses. In practice, the system was liable to abuse. As the license holders were entitled to an unlimited amount of government opium, they often sold it on to illicit dealers. As an author in the London-based anti-opium periodical Friend of China argued, it was also in the interest of the farmer to maximize his profits, in order to make back the often considerable cost of his license. (23) The Friend of China reported that opium sellers had been known to aggressively promote their product by handing out free samples to potential customers in areas where opium use had previously been very uncommon. (24)

Opium in the Burmese Empire

The ethnic Burmese dynasty that ruled the Burmese empire in 1826 had held power for less than a century. This third and final Burmese dynasty, the Konbaung, had been founded by King Alaungpaya, who pursued an aggressive and expansionist policy aimed at unifying Burma. This policy was continued by his successors--in 1785 his successor Bodawpaya conquered the kingdom of Arakan, creating a frontier between Burmese and British territory. (25)

Buddhism was an essential and unifying aspect of Burmese culture. Religion influenced most elements of daily life, so it is unsurprising that the typical Burmese attitude toward drug and alcohol use was determined to a great extent by the national religion. (26) Buddhist scripture was commonly interpreted to forbid not only wine and intoxicating liquors but also opium. (27) During the 18th and 19th centuries, at the same time as Burma's contact with Britain and other European nations was increasing, Burmese Buddhism was undergoing a period of reform, shifting towards a more orthodox and conservative practice, with a greater emphasis on strict observance of the Buddhist precepts. (28) Father Sangermano's Description of the Burmese Empire, written by a Jesuit missionary who worked in Burma at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, lists opium among the capital crimes in Burma, though he distinguishes several of these capital crimes as being designated so "under the present monarch," reflecting the relatively recent trend towards more strict enforcement of Buddhist prohibitions such as those against drinking wine, smoking opium, and killing any large animal. (29)

As in many other countries before and since, the fact that recreational drug use was condemned by religion and social mores in Burma did not necessarily mean it did not occur. While it is certain that at the time of British contact with Burma, Burmese religion and law censored opium, there was some uncertainty among British commentators as to the extent to which opium was actually used in Burma. The most zealous anti-opium campaigners claimed that the drug was entirely unknown before the British arrived, while the opium trade apologists disputed this. (30)

The very fact that opium was legislated against indicates that it was not entirely unknown. Evidence indicates that opium was being used in Burma as early as the 16th century. There are accounts both of Arab ships being permitted to unload opium at Burmese ports, and of a Shan prince becoming a victim to opium addiction in this period. (31) Also in the 16th century, the first recorded English traveler to Burma, Ralph Fitch, wrote that opium was one of the few commodities for which the port city of Pegu had a demand. (32) This anecdotal evidence gives no indication as to the extent of opium use, however, and there is no evidence to indicate that opium addiction in Burma could be described as widespread prior to the annexation of Arakan and Tenasserim in 1826.

In the 19th century, British authors described the role opium played in the traditional Burmese practice of tattooing. It was customary for Burmese and Northern Shan young men to tattoo their upper legs in order to mark the transition to adulthood. Descriptions of this practice in 19th century British travel books mention that the boys were given opium to dull the pain during the lengthy process, and British opium legislation permitted tattooists to possess a certain amount of opium in recognition of the legitimacy of this use. (33) While it is possible that use of opium in this context may have been a colonial development, the availability of at least some amount of opium prior to British contact, and the drug's efficacy as a painkiller, makes it likely that it was at least occasionally used therapeutically in pre-colonial Burma. (34) Max Ferrars, formerly Education Superintendent in Burma, and his wife Bertha Ferrars co-authored a book published in 1900 that lists opium among the drugs kept by Burmese medicine dealers. (35)

While there is evidence for some social context for opium use in Burma, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that recreational opium use, and especially opium abuse, was socially condemned in Burma. The Ferrars' book states that "opium-eater (beinza) is the worst thing a Burman can say of a man." (36) An example of the way in which this social stigma was displayed in daily life is given in an early work of anthropology, Mrs. Leslie Milne's Shans at Home: in the Northern Shan States it was customary in the 19th and early 20th centuries to send boys to be educated by Buddhist monks. However, the type of monk a boy would be sent to would depend on his father's occupation: the sons of butchers, fishers, and opium and liquor sellers would not be sent to the same school as the sons of the more respectable occupations. (37) All of these less respectable occupations involved bending or breaking a Buddhist precept, as Buddhism forbids taking any life, as well as the consumption of opium and liquor.

Considering that there are relatively few accounts of nonmedicinal opium use in Burma prior to the colonial period, and no accounts of widespread opium cultivation in central Burma, there seems to be no reason to argue with Renard's conclusion that opium use prior to the colonial period in Burma "was under control in the Burman societal fabric and abuse uncommon." (38)

Opium and the career of A.D. Maingy

Prior to the first Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-1826, the relationship between Burma and England had been on shaky footing. The Burmese historian Maung Htin Aung has argued that because both Burma and Great Britain were in an expansionist phase, shared a frontier, and had an almost non-existent diplomatic relationship, eventual armed conflict was inevitable. (39)

A.D. Maingy, the first British commissioner of Tenasserim province, began his administrative career in Tenasserim before the Treaty of Yandabo, signed in 1826 at the end of the first Anglo-Burmese war, was signed. Maingy acted as commissioner of Mergui and Tavoy provinces in the British-occupied far south of Burma from 1825 until his reassignment in 1826. In September of 1826, he was appointed civil commissioner of Tenasserim. By 1829, with the departure of the military commander of the province, he became the highest authority in the province--"Commissioner in Tenasserim and Agent General." (40) Over the eight years that he spent working for the Company in Tenasserim, Maingy's views on the legitimacy of the Company's opium policy changed dramatically.

In April of 1826, Maingy, while acting as commissioner of Tavoy and Mergui provinces, was also managing an opium farm in order to sell opium to the Chinese workers in the district's tin mines. (41) On April 23, he wrote to the Governor of Prince of Wales Island that he would like three or four chests of Patna or Benares opium to sell, and further noted that the farm he managed had made a loss due to the "exorbitant price I have had to pay for opium." (42) The early 20th century historian of Burma J.S. Furnivall writes that Maingy temporarily took over management of the opium shop in order to raise revenue for the government and break the Chinese monopoly on opium farm ownership that was beginning to be established. (43)

Over the course of the near-decade that Maingy spent in Burma, his views on the opium trade changed significantly. By 1832, far from requesting cheap opium to sell, Maingy seemed no longer willing to participate in the opium trade. He wrote to his superiors in Calcutta expressing optimism about a decrease in interest in opium and gambling. According to him, "a very great decrease" had occurred in the profits of opium and gambling farms, "which from Rupees 4,000 and Rupees 2,000 per month have now fallen down to Rupees 1,520 and Rupees 1,270 respectively." Maingy attributed the decrease in this form of revenue "to the increasing moral improvement in our population, and I am supported in this view by reference to the great reduction of Criminal offenses in those two provinces where in the last 12 months I have not had a single crime of importance to try." (44)

By the next year, Maingy's confidence in the inevitable decline of the opium trade had seemingly vanished, and he was writing to the Indian government that the revenue farms were "the most fertile source of crime and immorality," and recommended that they be abolished. (45) His realization that the popularity of opium and gambling would not vanish by itself would be confirmed by the trend of the following years: the decrease in the profit of the opium farms would be short-term. The continued and growing popularity of the drug would provoke the anti-opium lobby in Britain to declare that British rule in Burma, as long as it was synonymous with the promotion of opium, was a source of moral corruption, as opposed to a source of moral improvement which would eventually lessen the attraction of opium.

In 1834, Maingy was forced by ill-health to leave Tenasserim for Europe. (46) His final report to the Company Court of Directors condemned both opium and gambling farms, describing them as "the most fertile source of crime and immorality amongst our Burmese and Talain population." (47) For this reason, he recommended total abolition of both farm systems. He also emphasized that opium and gambling were prohibited by Buddhist doctrine.

The Court of Directors decided to recommend that Maingy's proposals relating to gambling be followed, both because it considered gambling to be a morally objectionable form of revenue, and because the Tenasserim district was the only place in India that obtained money from this source. In contrast, the Court rejected Maingy's proposals to abolish opium, stating that if prohibition was demanded by the population "and the object capable of fulfillment." then arguably it should be abolished, "but this is not stated by Mr. Maingy to be the case." The dispatch to the India Political Department from the Court of Directors justifying its decisions stated "we cannot but believe that the enforcement would as in China be found impracticable; and that the only consequence of abolishing the Opium Farms would be the loss of the Revenue which it yields, and the removal of the check, which to a certain extent a tax imposes on the use of that deleterious drug." (48)

It would be naive to take the Company's assertions of its attentiveness to the demands of the population and concern to check opium use at face value. One important consideration for the Company was the revenue provided by the opium farms, which had shown potential to increase. The Company's response to Maingy's report was part of a pattern of concern for profits masquerading as social responsibility that would be observable in British opium policy in India and Burma for the next century

An examination of material found in the India Office indicates that when it came to opium policy in Tenasserim, Maingy's views changed over time and appear to have been influenced by several considerations: the desire for revenue, Maingy's sense of responsibility for the population of Tenasserim, and his interest in maintaining social stability and order. Maingy actively participated in opium sales to Chinese workers in the tin mines at the beginning of his administrative career. Yet at the end of his time in Burma, he opposed the continuation of the opium farming system, because of the connection he observed between opium use and crime. Maingy's changing views on opium policy are a very early example of the relationship between drug control and social control in the decision-making process of British officials in colonial Burma.

What prompted Maingy's change in attitude, and why were his proposals rejected by the Court of Directors? The opium farm that Maingy was running in 1826 sold opium to Chinese workers in the tin mines. John Butcher has described how opium, drinking, and gambling provided an effective means for Southeast Asian states to tax transient Chinese workers. (49) While Cady writes that the Chinese who immigrated to Tavoy and Moulmein often married local women and settled down, they were still viewed as a separate and foreign population within Burma. (50) It is possible that because of this, Maingy did not feel the same sense of responsibility for their welfare as he felt for the welfare of the Burmese population. In addition, opium use among the tin miners was associated with productivity, whether the drug was being used as a stimulant, as a form of relaxation after work, or as a supposed prophylactic against malaria. (51) In contrast, among the ethnic Burmese population, rather than being a work facilitating drug, opium had become linked with social deterioration and crime. Maingy explicitly links moral improvement in the Burmese population with less need for police and trials. Therefore, it was directly in the interest of the ruling powers to encourage a socially stable population with a low crime rate.

Maingy, the "man on the spot," saw first-hand the crime and social disintegration resulting from opium use among the Burmese, and in the interests of social stability he wished to suppress the trade. His superiors in Calcutta, concerned about the province's lack of profitability, were unwilling to abolish one of the province's few sources of revenue.

Opium in Colonial Arakan

The province of Arakan was annexed by the East India Company at the same time as Tenasserim. Opium addiction in Arakan would provide more fodder for indignation among the London based anti-opium movement than any other province in Burma. Time spent in Arakan often seemed to have the effect of making British officials more likely to take a relatively prohibitionist position on opium regulation: Sir Arthur Phayre's early days as commissioner of Arakan led to his concern with Burmese opium use during his tenure as chief commissioner of Burma, and Charles Aitchison's influential 1881 memorandum was a response to a petition against opium sales presented to him in Arakan.

Although the British merchant community praised the results of British rule in the province of Arakan, particularly the significant increase in revenue, (52) Arakan would be particularly badly affected by opium addiction over the course of the 19th century, relative to the other provinces of colonial Burma. Those British observers who preferred not to ascribe the extent of opium addiction in the province to British influence could attribute it to the province's proximity to Chittagong and malarious climate. (53) But the British could not credibly deny all responsibility for the spread of opium use in Arakan. It became so pervasive that by 1869 the assistant commissioner of Ramree district estimated that half of the men between seventeen and thirty-five were opium consumers. (54)

By 1841, the two provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim were consuming more opium than any province in British India. (55) In 1847, the farming system was abolished in Bengal, and licenses were granted without charge. (56) Arakan's regulations also changed, and licenses were granted free of charge, whereas Tenasserim retained the farming system.

An 1869 report by J. Hind, the assistant commissioner of Ramree district in the province of Arakan, described the Bengal excise system as "the pernicious Bengal Abkaree system, which allowed an opium shop to be established anywhere and everywhere, and which ere it was stopped did most serious and lasting injury to full one-half of the youths of Arakan." (57) Hind reported a dramatic increase in excise revenue in the district over a period of 30 years. The excise revenue increased from 1,324 rupees in 1830-1831 to 31,415 rupees in 1868-1869. He attributed blame for the spread of opium addiction in Arakan to both the government and private citizens who followed the British troops into Arakan. Hind wrote: "Those who followed the British troops into Arakan for speculation soon found ways and means for establishing toddy shops, spirit shops, and opium shops, and the desire to raise a revenue for Government has done much more serious harm to the population which, when the British Government took the country, were total strangers to stimulants of all kinds, beyond a little occasional home-made...." (58)

The report emphasized the particular harm that opium use has done to the younger generation in Arakan. Hind estimated that one half of the male population between the age of 17 and 35 eat or smoke opium. He further estimated that one half of the opium users rely on thievery to support their opium habit. (59) The report stated that opium use had caused social deterioration--the young opium consumers first turn against and steal from their parents, "knowing that the parents will not prosecute them." (60) Opium use was causing the breakdown of religious authority and the family structure, as young men rejected marriage and employment: "The Arakan opium-smokers or eaters are most depraved in their morals; in fact they have no respect for their persons, their religion, or anything else. They are physically unfit for labor, and a married life does not appear to be their desire." (61)

At the time of Hind's report, two opium shops were still open in Arakan. The existence of these shops was supposedly necessary because of widespread smuggling: "The profit to the smuggler was so great, and the nature of the country and habits of the people such as to make the prevention of smuggling impossible, and hence the shops which had once been closed have been re-opened in order to bring the use or abuse of the drug under some control by the raising off it the largest possible amount of revenue." (62)

Remarkably, after describing the state of the province in such negative terms, the author's recommendation was not to prohibit opium, but to disallow any opium user to take government employment, and to recommend that the government financially support the school at Ramree "for much good can be expected from the education of the people." (63) The proposed banning of addicts from government employment can be seen as an attempt to compromise between the profitability of opium sales on one hand, and the demonstrated fact that opium addiction was making some addicts unfit for work on the other.

Hind's description of opium addiction officially corroborates the Friend of China's depiction of the desperate situation brought about by opium sales in Arakan. His proposed solution to the problem, increasing spending on education, was not widely shared, among either the pro- or anti-opium groups. By the 1930s, British officials would explicitly oppose anti-opium education in Burmese schools. (64) Including anti-opium propaganda in the government-funded school system, if this was what Hind was proposing, when considered in conjunction with government sales of opium certainly would expose the government to potential charges of hypocrisy.

Hind's report contains a number of important facts and assumptions about opium use in colonial Burma. Firstly, the fact that a British official, who was not at all in favor of prohibition, nonetheless described opium as having negative effects on Burmese society gives credibility to the belief that opium use could cause grave harm. Both sides of the opium debate were prone to exaggerated depictions of opium's harmfulness or harmlessness, which makes it difficult to reliably establish any facts about the drug's actual effects. J. Hind had observed first-hand the effects of opium on the population of Arakan, and his observations were relatively credible because he was not using them to lobby either for or against opium sales.

Secondly, Hind's report established that opium was commonly used by young men, and made the association between Burmese opium use, unemployment, and social breakdown. These demographics of opium use in Burma would be important later when British policy-makers began to create a policy that differentiated between different ethnic groups in Burma. Thirdly, Hind blames foreigners for introducing opium to the inhabitants of Arakan. This association would also prove important. At the time of the Royal Commission, members of the government of India would defend opium sales in India on the grounds that opium use in India was part of Indian culture, and existed long before British rule. It was almost impossible to make similar arguments about opium use in Burma. The fact that opium use was introduced by non-Burmese would also eventually contribute to the role of anti-opium sentiment in twentieth century Burmese nationalist ideology.

Finally, Hind voices what would become perhaps the most common rationale for continuing the sale of opium in Burma and elsewhere: that because of the persistence of smuggling it was necessary to keep the opium shops open, "in order to bring the use or abuse of the drug under some control by the raising off it the largest possible amount of revenue." (65)

Opium use continued to be a problem in Arakan through the 1860s and 1870s. Sir Arthur Phayre, the first chief commissioner of British Burma, attributed the accelerated growth of opium addiction in Arakan to the abolishment of the farming system: "Whatever the intention in doing so may have been, the effect thereof can only be deemed deplorable and disastrous. Drinking spirits and smoking opium ... had become almost universal among the Arakanese young men." (66)

The Aitchison memorandum and the beginnings of reform

In 1853, following the second Anglo-Burmese war of 1852, Britain annexed the Burmese province of Pegu. (67) Although opium was strictly controlled in the newly annexed province --no cultivation or import by private citizens was allowed, and all opium was imported to the deputy commissioner--the London-based Society for the Prevention of the Opium Trade reported that opium consumption in the province increased following the British conquest. (68) In the first couple of years, the increase in opium consumption could be optimistically attributed to more effective anti-smuggling laws, but when the increase showed no signs of stopping, it became clear to the anti-opium lobby that the increase reflected a growing opium problem. (69) Pegu was the prime agricultural area of Burma, prior to annexation, and a very rich province. This, to these British commentators, made the growth of opium addiction in the province even more pitiable. (70)

The first annual report on the administration of British Burma, following the amalgamation of these three provinces, showed excise revenue, which included money from both domestic and imported liquor, as well as opium, making up about 8% of the total revenue of the three provinces. Both the greatest actual amount of revenue and the highest percentage of revenue from excise as a percentage of total revenue were found in the province of Tenasserim, with a total amount of 343,263 rupees making up 17% of the total revenue. Pegu derived almost as much revenue from excise, with 313,663 rupees, but this amount made up only 5% of the total revenue, which was the highest among the three provinces, in keeping with Pegu's character as the richest province. In Arakan, the province with the smallest amount of total revenue, excise revenue made up 7% of the total. (71)

In 1857, the government of India assumed responsibility for the East India Company's territories. In 1862, Arakan, Tenasserim, and Pegu were amalgamated into the single province of British Burma. This province was ultimately under the authority of the government of India. The first chief commissioner, Sir Arthur Phayre, had previously been posted in the province of Arakan, so, having seen the growth of opium addiction in that province, one of his first actions was to reduce the number of opium shops in the province, in response to a petition from the inhabitants. (72) In the new province of British Burma, opium licenses were again sold by auction. In 1872, the opium licensing system was once again altered, and instead of selling licenses for a district, licenses were sold for each individual shop. (73)

By the end of the 1870s, evidence was increasing that the sale of opium was destructive to the Burmese population. The memoir of Sir Herbert Thirkell White, who later became lieutenant-governor of Burma, mentions that when he first came to Burma in 1878 "one of the odd jobs which fell to my lot in my first year was to consult the elders of Bassein on the opium question. They were unanimous in their condemnation of opium in every shape...." (74) There was an increasing amount of comment on the drug's effects in the official reports of the government of British Burma. Officials were beginning to notice that a large number of prisoners in the new jails the British were building were opium users. (75) Aitchison was sufficiently concerned by these reports of opium use in Burma, and in particular by a petition presented to him by a number of influential residents of Akyab town in Arakan to write a memorandum to the governor general of India asking for increased restrictions on opium sales in Burma. (76)

There is evidence that opium addiction disproportionately affected young men in British Burma. Max Ferrars, at the time director of public instruction, wrote a report for the Friend of China in 1881 on one unnamed village in Pegu, where an opium farm had been established within the last four years. While Ferrars' report was published in the official publication of the Society for the Prevention of the Opium Trade, which was hardly a neutral forum, Ferrars had firsthand experience of life in Burma, and his report contains specific information about the demographics of opium addiction in one Burmese village, as opposed to the more usual generalities about opium's ill effects.

The unnamed village that Ferrars describes had a population of 540 people, of whom 80 were men between 20 and 30 years old. There were 18 opium consumers in the village, and all but one of these consumers were between 20 and 30 years old. (77) So, young men in this village made up about 15% of the village population but more than 90% of the opium consumers, and more than 20% of the village's young men were opium consumers. Six of the young men are described as thieving or gambling to obtain money to buy opium. Two of the young men had been deserted by their wives because of their opium habit, while seven of the young men are described as being supported by their wives or families. Ferrats writes that one of these young men in particular would eventually drive his wife to prostitution if she stays with him, "for it is devotion to an opium eater and gambler of a husband which has driven to this resort the few women in Burma who adopt it." (78) Two of the men, aged 28 and 35, are described as often only being able to afford "pipe grime" rather than opium itself. The length of time the young men had had their opium habit varied from two months to six years, but the majority had adopted it within the last three years. Only one of the young men is described as having begun "the regimen recommended by the native medicinemen to stop the craving" at his wife's prompting, and this man had adopted the opium habit the most recently, having only used opium for two months. (79)

The one addict in the village who was over 30 was significantly older--at 43 he had been smoking opium for 10 years, having acquired the habit in Rangoon. He is set apart from the majority of the consumers by his age, the length of time he had held his habit, and his physical state. He is described as a physical wreck, and barely able to walk to buy his own opium. Ferrars' description of the man hints at a possible reason for his habit: "he is very bad with the intestinal disorder brought on by opium or bad or insufficient diet." (80)

Ferrars' report validates the British and Burmese concerns about the effects of the availability of the drug on the Burmese population. Following the establishment of an opium farm where there hadn't previously been one, opium consumption increased, and the new users were overwhelmingly young men. Opium use among these young men was associated with crime and gambling, with unemployment, and with the breakdown of the Burmese family. Opium consumption among young men could also be associated with resistance to the British colonial order. Donald Mackenzie Smeaton mentioned in a footnote in his Loyal Karens of Burma that "The pacification of Burma will be no easy task ... liquor, opium, and gambling have placed in every Burmese village a large number of men who will not work and are a terror to the community. These men are the daredevils of the insurrectionary movement." (81)

The Aitchison memorandum was written in a context of growing concern, not only about the opium industry in Burma, but about the imperial opium industry in general. The anti-opium movement in London had been growing increasingly vociferous since its founding in 1875--Virginia Berridge points to 1885 as marking "the apogee of the Society's fortune." (82) In India there were also signs of growing concern about the opium trade. In early 1874, the Times reported that famine in Bengal had resulted from too large a proportion of arable land being used to cultivate opium. (83) In 1881, the government of Bombay prevented the government of India from promoting poppy cultivation. (84)

Sir Charles Umpherston Aitchison was described by Sir Herbert Thirkell White, who was briefly Aitchison's personal assistant, and later chief commissioner of Burma, as an exceptional civil servant. Thirkell White wrote: "At a very early stage in his career [Aitchison] became Foreign Secretary to the Government of India. That high office he exchanged for the comparative obscurity of Burma, only because he differed from the Viceroy (Lord Lytton) on points of frontier policy. He was a man of exceptional ability, of absolute character, with the most delicate sense of honour, a chief whom it was a pride and pleasure to serve." (85) Aitchison was a devout man who, somewhat unusually for an Indian civil servant, was strongly in favor of missionary work in India. (86) Opium was not the only issue of morals that Aitchison felt compelled to address in his years in Burma: he was also concerned about relationships between British officials and Burmese women. (87)

In his memorandum, Aitchison immediately made it clear that he had no wish to entirely prohibit opium use in Burma. Despite his missionary affiliations, he did not seem to subscribe to the prohibitionist ideology of the missionary dominated anti-opium movement that had been campaigning against the opium trade with China since the 1840s. (88) He accepted that moderate, non-destructive opium use could exist without necessarily leading to abuse and believed that the capacity for moderate use was mainly determined by the ethnicity of the opium consumer.

Aitchison's memorandum specifies the nationalities that he believed could use opium without much harm: "The Chinese population in British Burma and to some extent also the immigrants from India, especially Chittagonians and Bengalees habitually consume opium without any apparent bad effects; those of them who have acquired the habit do not regularly indulge to excess." (89) In other words, Aitchison believed that opium addiction is not an inevitable result of opium use, but rather a consequence of its use by members of some ethnicities or nationalities. Because of this recognition of the varied effect of the drug, Aitchison rejected outright prohibition as a solution to the addiction problem, writing that "the legitimate requirements of these [Chinese and Indian] people must necessarily be considered and provided for." (90) At the same time, he believed it was necessary to find some way to protect the ethnic Burmese population of Burma from the potentially disastrous consequences of their opium use.

The appendix of Aitchison's report contains 20 excerpts from statements taken from British officials and Burmese elders on opium consumption in Burma. The excerpts unanimously condemn Burmese opium use. The most drastic solution to the problems associated with Burmese opium use, recommended by several of those who gave statements, as well as by the anti-opium movement in London, was to ban opium in Burma entirely, except for medicinal use. Aitchison dismissed this solution because of what he considered to be legitimate use by Chinese and Indian users.

Aitchison also considered the effect total prohibition would have on the Burmese opium addicts who already existed. The availability of government licensed opium in Arakan and Tenasserim for over 50 years had evidently created a significant number of addicts. Withdrawal from opium addiction, by most missionary and medical accounts was a painful and occasionally even fatal process for the addicts. Aitchison wrote that the total prohibition of opium would be "at the risk of the lives of the unhappy consumers." (91)

Aitchison's memorandum recommended a reduced number of opium shops in British Burma, a ban on use or possession of opium outside of the shops and, most restrictively, a system of restraint for habitual smokers, by which they would have to find security for their good behavior. Aitchison wrote that such a system would be justified "considering the close and direct connection which is proved to exist in this province between opium smoking and crime." (92) He also recommended the appointment of a commissioner of excise for Burma. He dismissed the idea of raising the fixed duty on opium, and also of restricting the amount of opium supplied by the shops, explaining that it would not be necessary because "if the number of shops be reduced and the opium be consumed on the premises, the supply will regulate itself to the requirements of the case." (93) His recommendations did not address the problem of smuggling--if officials weren't able to prevent licensed shop owners selling on opium to other dealers in the past, there is no reason they would be any better at preventing them selling opium under the new system.

Earlier it was argued that A.D. Maingy's record with regard to opium shows that he implicitly distinguished between different ethnic groups, supporting opium sales to some groups and opposing opium sales to others. Aitchison's memorandum makes the distinction explicit, although Aitchison didn't advocate opium sales to the Chinese and Indian populations because these groups' use of opium is somehow beneficial to the state, but rather because it is not harmful to the users. However, while Aitchison based the memorandum's policy recommendations on existing differences between groups, the proposed regulations didn't include any explicit legislative acknowledgement of these differences, as would be the case in later opium policy legislation. Aitchison's memorandum indirectly acknowledges these perceived differences when it recommends a careful review of each existing opium shop, in order to determine if it ought to be kept open. Aitchison had noted earlier in the memorandum that non-Burmese populations tended to be concentrated in certain areas of the country. This was because these populations were often associated with particular industries that necessarily took place in these areas--for example, Chinese workers in the tin mines in Tenasserim province, or merchants in urban commercial centers.

Despite the efforts of the anti-opium movement in Britain over the previous 40 years to make the British public aware of the destruction caused by the opium trade in China, officials in Burma, including Aitchison, generally seemed to believe that opium use did not significantly harm the Chinese user. A habit which had only become widespread in China within the last century, and which was a source of great controversy both in Chinese official and British evangelical and reform circles, in Burma was considered to be both essentially harmless and a valued element of Chinese culture. The anti-opium campaigners, in arguing that opium use was harmful to the Chinese population, and only recently popularized in China by the British, were contending with a growing orientalist discourse that inextricably linked China and opium. (94)

It seems that Aitchison was prompted to compose his memorandum by his own observations of the problems caused by Burmese opium abuse, the observations of other officials in British Burma, as well as petitions against government opium sales from the Burmese community. Was it really the case that there were no such problems in the Chinese or Indian communities in British Burma? There is evidence that suggests otherwise: less than 15 years after Aitchison's report, at the time of the Royal Commission on Opium, some Chinese witnesses in Burma testified that opium could cause harm to Chinese consumers, and more than one witness advocated total prohibition of non-medicinal opium sales. A Chinese former opium farm clerk presented a petition from the Chinese community with about three hundred signatures, calling for total prohibition of opium. (95)

There are a number of possible explanations for Aitchison's ignorance of any harm associated with opium use in the Chinese community in Burma. Maingy, Hind, and Aitchison each observed that the harm caused by abuse of opium by the Burmese was social: crime, unemployment, and the breakdown of traditional family structures. Aitchison described the Chinese and Indian communities in Burma as "perhaps the most thriving and industrious section of the population," and while he did not explicitly connect these communities' opium use with their prosperity, their prosperity may have camouflaged any ill effects caused by opium use and contributed to Aitchison's lack of perception of any harm caused by opium use among these communities. (96)

The system of opium control and distribution in place in British Burma in 1881, as Aitchison described it, seemed to be determined by a synthesis of William McAllister's "logic of supply control" with the brazenly profit-seeking ethos of the former East India Company. William McAllister in his book Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century describes drug negotiation from the early 20th century onwards as being dominated by "the logic of supply control," or trying to control the population's drug use by restricting available quantities of drugs to those required for legitimate use (usually synonymous with medicinal use), and defining all non-legitimate use as harmful. (97) This policy aimed to make a maximum profit out of a restricted consumption--to supply only enough opium to meet the existing demand, while discouraging demand from growing. (98) The British colonial establishment that ruled British Burma at the time of the Aitchison memorandum was certainly trying to control the population of Burma's opium consumption by means of controlling the opium supply--the number of shops selling opium was strictly controlled, and had been decreased several times since British Burma became a province. However, as the memorandum shows, British policy-makers were unwilling to designate medicinal opium use the only legitimate form of use.

Controlling drug use by controlling the supply inevitably has problems, primarily the existence of alternate supply sources. Aitchison admitted that this policy had not proved effective in discouraging demand in Burma--there was too much incentive for the license holders to try and increase consumption as much as possible, especially since the license was liable to be expensive. Illicit distribution of opium by the owners of opium farms led to a spread in the opium habit, which in turn led to the creation of more shops. There were a total of 50 shops in British Burma in 1875-1876, which had increased to 67 in the course of three years. (99) These were only the legal shops, but by all accounts these were outnumbered by the illegal ones. Demand for opium also led to an increase in smuggling from other sources, particularly the Chinese province of Yunnan, where there was widespread opium cultivation.

According to Donald Smeaton, in a speech given 25 years after the Aitchison memorandum was published, Aitchison met with a great deal of opposition in official circles for his stance on opium. Apparently he was "sneered at as a man far too much given up to his moral convictions to be useful in a British province" by Lord Ripon, the viceroy at the time. (100) Smeaton states that both British official circles and the press regarded Aitchison and his supporters as enemies to India's best interests, because of the financial sacrifice that would be the result of implementing his resolutions. (101) It seems possible that Smeaton was exaggerating the vehemence of Aitchison's opposition for effect; the evidence suggests that Aitchison's memorandum was widely supported by other British officials in Burma. This support was demonstrated by the statements on opium appended to Aitchison's report and by the fact that some of his resolutions were in fact adopted, albeit in what Smeaton described as an "emasculated" form.

By 1906, when Smeaton gave his speech, Smeaton's own views on opium had radicalized, and he was calling for total prohibition of opium. Aitchison only wanted to stop opium use among the Burmese, whom he perceived to be a vulnerable population. This idea was not an entirely radical one. Those who supported the opium trade had always argued that the particular population that they were discussing was equipped to handle moderate opium use, for example that opium smoking among the Chinese was the equivalent of moderate alcohol consumption or tea drinking among the British. (102) Few supporters were as fanatic about the absolute harmlessness of opium as Sir George Birdwood, who claimed that opium smoking was less harmful than smoking hay. (103) Aitchison did not even call for an absolute ban on opium consumption among the Burmese, but only measures aimed at discouraging use. Discouraging opium consumption had been the justification for the implementation of the opium excise system in India in the first place, and one of the primary rationalizations for all subsequent imperial monopolies on drug sales.

The net revenue from excise opium, that is, opium that was consumed in India, in 1880-1881, was usually less than one-tenth of the revenue from provision opium, or opium that was exported from India. (104) Opium consumed in British Burma made up about 23% of the opium consumed in India. British officials would not need to think outside their immediate self interest to conclude that the measurable harm that opium was doing to the population in British Burma-demonstrated by the number of opium users in jail, and by Burmese people's observations of the harm that opium was doing to the young generation of Burmese men--outweighed the revenue benefit, which was small compared to the profit gained from exports to China. British Burma was a rich province, in terms of natural resources: Pegu was formerly the main agricultural centre of the Burmese empire. It would not profit Britain to have the Burmese population rendered incapable through opium addiction.

The final draft of a resolution concerning opium was approved by the government of India in January of 1881. It dropped several of Aitchison's suggestions, and did raise the selling price of opium. The number of opium shops was reduced to 20. No commissioner of excise was appointed, nor were there any special provisions for differential treatment of habitual smokers, or restrictions as to sale of opium for home use.

The policy resulting from the discussion around Aitchison's memorial was followed by subsequent chief commissioners. Aitchison's immediate successor Charles Bernard closed additional opium shops in Burma in 1882. (105) This policy was marked by a reliance on the supply control method of opium control, and characterized by an official mindset that legitimized some opium use based on ethnic differentiation. This differentiation seemed to be based on some recognition of the differing cultural contexts of opium use, on a racial hierarchy which viewed some races as being more susceptible to opium abuse than others, and on a tolerance for opium use that was profitable to the colonial state by enabling workers to better perform their job.

Aitchison's report was successful in drawing attention to the problem of opium use in British Burma. It would be cited in all subsequent 19th century discussions of the opium problem in Burma: in the Friend of China, the discussion surrounding each proposed modification to the opium laws, and in the report of the Royal Commission on opium.


One standard explanation for Britain's imperial drug policy is that imperial policy-makers saw opium entirely in terms of the profit that the colonial state could make from it--that they chose to ignore or rationalize away the potentially harmful aspects of the drug and thus avoid any sense of responsibility for the consequences of distributing it. Any limitations on opium sales were the result of a certain degree of necessary compromise with external pressures. This explanation contrasts British officialdom with anti-opium organizations such as the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade, which viewed opium as a physically and psychologically damaging substance, and thus lobbied for total prohibition. (106)

The earliest example of opium policy described in this article makes it clear that financial gain was not the only consideration for colonial administrators in Burma. A.D. Maingy's record regarding opium shows that while he was happy to sell opium to Chinese workers in Tenasserim's tin mines, he opposed opium sales to the Burmese population. After Maingy, there is a continued history of official concern about the effects of opium use on the Burmese population. This concern eventually resulted in the Aitchison memorandum, a document that differentiated between opium consumers based on ethnicity.

Thomas Metcalf describes imperial ideology as "shot through with contradiction and inconsistency." (107) Official views of opium in British Burma seem to fit this description: opium use was a cause for concern among the Burmese population, yet was widely considered to be harmless among the Chinese community in Burma. Ultimately, these contradictions and inconsistencies were used to achieve effective imperial rule. Opium legislation that treated the ethnic groups within Burma differently from one another did so with the aim of achieving the various elements that were deemed necessary for stable and profitable colonial rule: revenue, a productive work-force, and a co-operative and socially stable population. This legislation followed the 1886 conquest of the independent kingdom of Burma, and would be upheld by the Royal Commission on Opium.


(1.) See for example Sir John Strachey's testimony at the Royal Commission on Opium. At the time of the Commission Strachey was a member of the Council of India, and he had served in the Indian civil service or the government of India for most of his life. He vehemently opposed stricter opium regulation for India in general, but nonetheless considered Burma an exception: "The only country--I cannot say of India. because it is not India, it as unlike India as Algeria is unlike France--but the only country under Indian administration in regard to which it appears to me that any evidence has been produced that deserves serious consideration to show that any considerable section of the people has suffered from the consumption of opium, is Burmah." Royal Commission on Opium, Minutes of Evidence, London. September 15, 1893, Question 897.

(2.) Some significant works on the Indo-Chinese trade include: David Owen, British Opium Policy, in China and India. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1934); Michael Greenberg. British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-1842. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951); Carl A. Trochi, Opium, Empire, and the Global Political Economy. (London: Routledge, 1999) On the opium industry in India see: John F. Richards, "The Opium Industry in British India" in Land. Politics and Trade in South Asia. Sanjay Subrahmanyam (ed.) (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004). For the most complete study of opium policy in Britain during about the same time period as British colonialism in Burma: Virginia Berridge, Opium and the People: Opiate Use and Drug Control Policy in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England. (London: Free Association Books, 1999.) A history of British imperial hemp policy, which in many respects paralleled the history of opium regulation is found in James H. Mills, Cannabis Britannica: Empire. Trade and Prohibition 1800-1928. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(3.) Ronald D. Renard. The Burmese Connection: Illegal Drugs and the Making of the Golden Triangle (London: Lynne Reiner Publishers. Inc., 1996).

(4.) Bertil Lintner, Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency since 1948 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 41.

(5.) See Maung Htin Aung, The Stricken Peacock." Anglo-Burmese Relations 1752-1948. (The Hague: Martinus Nijohn. 1965); John F. Cady, The Making of Modern Burma. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958); Thant Myint-U. The Making of Modern Burma, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Dorothy Woodman, The Making of Burma. (London: Cresset Press. 1962).

(6.) For example. Tzang Yawnghwe Chao, The Shan of Burma Memoirs of a Shan Exile. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990); Lintner. Burma in Revolt.

(7.) Robert B. Maule. "The Opium Question in the Federated Shan States, 1931-1936: British Policy Discussions and Scandal" in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 23(1) (March 1992) 14-36; "'British Policy Discussions on the Opium Question in the Federated Shan States, 1937-1948", Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 33(2) (June 2002). 203-224.

(8.) Virginia Berridge Opium and the People (London: Free Association Books, 1999); J.B. Brown. "'Politics of the Poppy: The Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade," Journal of Contemporary History, 8 (July 1973), 97-111.

(9.) John F. Richards. "'Opium and the British Indian Empire: The Royal Commission of 1895." Modern Asian Studies. 36(2) (2002), 375-420.

(10.) Paul C. Winther, Anglo-European Science and the Rhetoric of Empire, (Lanham and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2003). 4.

(11.) John F. Richards, "The Indian Empire and Peasant Production of Opium in the Nineteenth Century" Modern Asian Studies, 15(1) (1981), 61-63.

(12.) Richard Davenport-Hines, The Pursuit of Oblivion, (London: Phoenix Press, 2001). 22.

(13.) Ibid.

(14.) Rajeshwari Prasad. Some Aspects of British Revenue Policy in India 1773-1833, (New Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1970), 47-48.

(15.) Ibid., 48-50.

(16.) Ibid., 54-55.

(17.) Ibid., 148-149.

(18.) Amar Farooqui "Opium enterprise and colonial intervention in Malwa and western India, 1800-1824" The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 34(4) (1995), 447-474.

(19.) See R. K. Newman "India and the Anglo-Chinese Opium Agreements, 1907-1914" in Modern Asian Studies, 23(3) (1989), 527-528.

(20.) Return of Article on Opium by Doctor Watt, Reporter on Economic Products with Government of India. (Pad. Papers. 1890-1, LIX.439), 37.

(21.) Ibid., 73.

(22.) The Indian Opium Revenue: Its Nature and Effects, (London: Printed by Alexander and Yates for the Anglo-Oriental Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade, 1874), 8.

(23.) "Opium in British Burma" in Friend of China, 6(3) (March 1883), 72.

(24.) "England and Burmah" in Friend of China, 1(9) (January 1876), 288.

(25.) D.P. Singhal British Diplomacy and the Annexation of Upper Burma (New Delhi: South Asian Pvt. Ltd., 1981), 15.

(26.) John F. Cady, A History of Modern Burma. (Ithaca. NY: Cornell University Press. 1958): H. Fielding, The Soul of a People, (London: Richard Bentley and Son. 1898); G. J. F. S. Forbes, British Burma and its People. (London: John Murray, 1878); Thant Myint-U, The Making of Modern Burma, etc.

(27.) Myint-U. The Making of Modern Burma. 82.

(28.) Ibid., 49.

(29.) Rev. Father Sangermano. A Description of the Burmese Empire. Trans. William Tandy, (Rome: Joseph Salducci and Son, 1833), 66.

(30.) Final Report of the Royal Commission (1895), pp.74-75.

(31.) Ronald D. Renard. The Burmese Connection, (London: Lynne Reiner Publishers. Inc., 1996), 14, 16.

(32.) D. G. E. Hall. Early English Intercourse with Burma, 1587-1743, (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1968), 22. Ralph Fitch was an ancestor of Sir Albert Fytche, the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, 1867-1871.

(33.) For example, Max and Bertha Ferrars, Burma (London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1900), 13.

(34.) Renard, The Burmese Connection, 15.

(35.) Ferrars, Burma, 127.

(36.) Ibid., 157.

(37.) Mrs. Leslie Milne Shahs at Home (London: John Murray, 1910), 50.

(38.) Renard. The Burmese Connection, 17.

(39.) Maung Htin Aung, The Stricken Peacock: Anglo-Burmese Relations 1752-1948, (The Hague: Martinus Nijohn. 1965). 30.

(40.) Edith Piness, Moulmein to Mandalay (Unpublished thesis, 1977), 19.

(41.) A.D. Maingy to Robert Fullerton, April 23, 1826, Tavoy. Correspondence for the Years 1825-1826 to 1842-1843 in the Office of the Commissioner. Tenasserim Division: India Office Records (British Library): V/27/34/1. All subsequent India Office Records will be cited as IOR.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) J.S. Furnivall, "'The Fashioning of Leviathan" in Journal of the Burma Research Society, 29(1) (1939), 95.

(44.) A.D. Maingy to George Swinton. Affairs of the Tenasserim Provinces: IOR: F/4/1451, 347-350.

(45.) A.D. Maingy to W. H. MacNaughten, July 31, 1833, Maulmain., Correspondence for the Years 1825-26 to 1842-43 in the Office of the Commisioner. Tenasserim Division: IOR: V/27/34/1.

(46.) There are conflicting reports for Maingy's reasons for leaving Tenasserim. Piness ascribes it to ill health, Cady suggests that he was forced out by European business interests "who opposed his imaginative application of traditional Burmese legal standards". Edith Piness, Moulmein to Mandalay (Unpublished thesis. 1977); Cady, A History of Modern Burma, 83.

(47.) Dispatch from the Court of Directors. India Political Department. Tenasserim Provinces: IOR:E/4/746, 104.

(48.) Ibid., 105-107.

(49.) John Butcher, "Revenue Farming and the Changing State in Southeast Asia" in The Rise and Fall of Revenue Farming, John Butcher and Howard Dick, eds., (London: Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1993), 23.

(50.) Cady, A History. of Modern Burma, 82.

(51.) Opium's efficacy against malaria was debated throughout the nineteenth century. Opinions differed not only on whether opium actually prevented malaria, but even whether this was believed to be the case by the people of India and Burma. See Winther, Anglo-European Science and the Rhetoric of Empire.

(52.) "Notice of Arakan'" (The Maulmain Chronicle, volume II, #71), 283.

(53.) John Nisbet, Burma Under British Rule--and Before, (2 vols., London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1901) I, 231.

(54.) E. H. L. Steppings, "Arakan: A Hundred Years Ago, and Fifty Years After" in Journal of the Burma Research Society, 15(1) (1925), 70.

(55.) Renard, The Burmese Connection. 25.

(56.) Final Report of the Royal Commission (1895), 75.

(57.) Report on the Progress of Arakan under British Rule, 1826-1875, (Rangoon: printed at the Government Press. 1876) in IOR: V/27/64/164.42.

(58.) Ibid., 47.

(59.) Ibid.

(60.) Ibid.

(61.) Ibid., 48.

(62.) Ibid.

(63.) Ibid.

(64.) A.H. Lloyd to the Under Secretary of State for India. June 15, 1931, Simla. Economic and Overseas Department Collection. Opium. Conferences: Bangkok Opium Smoking Conference and Agreement 1931: IOR: E/9/712,756.

(65.) Report on the Progress of Arakan under British Rule. 1826-1875. (Rangoon: printed at the Government Press, 1876) in IOR: V/27/64/164, 48.

(66.) Phayre quoted in Final Report on the Royal Commission, 76.

(67.) Opium sales in Pegu were conducted under the same system as sales in Tenasserim.

(68.) "'Burma, Opium, and the Trade Route to Yunnan" in Friend of China, 1(10) (February 1876), 296.

(69.) Max Henry Ferrars, "'Opium in British Burma" in Friend of China, 4(8) (December 1880). 191.

(70.) Ibid.

(71.) A. P. Phayre, Annual Report on the Administration of the Province of British Burma, 1861-1862. Appendix I, xiii.

(72.) Taken from the Financial Department Report of the Government of India, 1873, quoted in "'Burma, Opium, and the Trade Route to Yunnan" in Friend of China, 1(10) (February 1876). 298.

(73.) Final Report of the Royal Commission. 77.

(74.) Sir Herbert Thirkell White, A Civil Servant in Burma (London: Edward Arnold. 1913), 55.

(75.) For example, in 1871-1872. the annual administration noted that nearly every prisoner admitted into the Akyab jail was an opium smoker. Administration Report for British Burma. 1871-1872. 79.

(76.) Final Report of the Royal Commission. 77.

(77.) Max Henry Ferrars, "Opium in British Burma" in Friend of China, 4(8) (December 1880), 195-198.

(78.) Ibid., 197.

(79.) Ibid.

(80.) Ibid., 195.

(81.) Donald Mackenzie Smeaton, The Loyal Karens of Burma, (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench and Co., 1887), 4 (footnote)

(82.) Berridge, Opium and the People, 183.

(83.) "Gleanings from the Newspapers" in Friend of China. 1(2) (April 1875), 66.

(84.) Booth. Opium: A History. 151.

(85.) Sir Herbert Thirkell White, A Civil Servant in Burma (London: Edward Arnold, 1913), 26.

(86.) George Smith, Twelve Indian Statesmen (London: John Murray, 1897), 301.

(87.) Smith. Twelve Indian Statesmen, 299.

(88.) Aitchison was a director of the Church Missionary Society after he retired. (See ibid., p. 305) For an account of the missionary opposition to the opium trade with China. see Kathleen Lodwick, Crusaders Against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China, 1874-1917, (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1996).

(89.) Copy of a Memorandum by C.U. Aitchison, Esq., C.S., C.S.I, LL.D late Chief Commissioner of British Burma, on the consumption of Opium in that Province, dated Rangoon, April 30, 1880, with appended papers. Memorandum by Chief Commissioner of British Burma. on Consumption of Opium. (Pad. Papers, 1881, LXVIII.643), 1.

(90.) Ibid., 6.

(91.) Ibid.

(92.) Ibid., 7.

(93.) Ibid.

(94.) See Barry Milligan, Pleasures and Pains: Opium and the Orient in Nineteenth Century British Culture (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1995).

(95.) Royal Commission on Opium, Minutes of Evidence, Rangoon. December 19, 1893, Questions 8355-835.

(96.) Copy of a Memorandum by C. U. Aitchison. Esq., C.S., C.S.I. LL.D late Chief Commissioner of British Burma, on the consumption of Opium in that Province, dated Rangoon, April 30, 1880, with appended papers. Memorandum by Chief Commissioner of British Burma, on Consumption of Opium. (Parl. Papers, 1881, LXVIII.643), p.6. For further discussions regarding the use of drugs to facilitate labor, see William Jankowiak and Daniel Bradburd (eds.), Drugs, Labor. and Colonial Expansion (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. 2003).

(97.) William B. McAllister, Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2000), 3.

(98.) Final Report of the Royal Commission (1895), 76.

(99.) Figures from Copy of a Memorandum by C. U. Aitchison. Esq., C.S., C.S.I. LL.D late Chief Commissioner of British Burma, on the consumption of Opium in that Province. dated Rangoon, April 30, 1880, with appended papers. Memorandum by Chief Commissioner of British Burma, on Consumption of Opium. (Parl. Papers, 1881, LXVIII.643), 4.

(100.) Smeaton's speech was given at a breakfast meeting in London in 1906, and quoted in David McLaren, The Opium Trade (London: Morgan and Scott Ltd., 1907), 30.

(101.) Ibid.

(102.) See for example Leigh Ritchie's pro-opium pamphlet, written at the beginning of the movement against the opium trade in the 1840s. "We want something to repair the wear and tear of life which is perpetually going on ... '" and "'some nations affect one stimulant, some another. Ritchie, A View of the Opium Trade (London: William H. Allen and Co.. 1843), 13-19.

(103.) Royal Commission on Opium. Minutes of Evidence. London, September 15, 1893. Question 1156.

(104.) Figures taken from Return of Article on Opium by Doctor Watt, Reporter on Economic Products with Government of India. (Parl. Papers, 1890-1, LIX.439), 72.

(105.) "'More Opium Shops Closed in British Burma" in Friend of China. 5(5) (May 1882). 162.

(106.) John F. Richards" "Opium and the British Indian Empire" argues that British opium policy in India at the time of the Royal Commission was. in contrast to the anti-opium lobby, culturally sensitive and in accordance with the wishes of the Indian population. John F. Richards, "Opium and the British Indian Empire: The Royal Commission of 1895." Modern Asian Studies, 36(2) (2002), 375-420.

(107.) Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), ix.
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Author:Wright, Ashley
Publication:Contemporary Drug Problems
Date:Dec 22, 2008
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