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[Jan 17] American Opium Wars? War and Trade in Nineteenth-Century Indonesia

Date: January 17, 2024 (Wednesday)

Time: 5:30 to 6:30 pm

Venue: CRT-5.41, Run Run Shaw Tower, 5/F, Centennial Campus, HKU

Speaker: Dr. James Fichter (Associate Professor | Programme Director, European Studies, HKU)


In 1832, the United States Navy attacked Kuala Batu, a town in Northern Sumatra. This was the first U.S. armed intervention in Asia. Interventions followed for the next two decades in response to attacks on U.S. trade. Scholars have generally considered the 1832 naval affair more closely than the trade itself. What has long been considered as a pepper trade was more complex: U.S., British French and other merchants bought large amounts of pepper, but they paid in cloth, silver and, notably, opium. The role of opium sales in the violence on the Acehnese coast has been previously overlooked. This talk will consider opium’s role in that violence and the degree to which these conflicts might fruitfully be considered as Opium Wars.



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