Evaluation of the Causes Benefits & Consequences of the Opium Wars in China Essay

Can you help me understand this History question?


1. Purpose

The purpose of this assignment is to have you inquire into either the Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-1860) or the Taiping Rebellion or Uprising (1850-1864) by looking at the primary documents derived from the 1840s to the 1860s. By “primary sources” I mean the original documents derived from the period in which both of these great incidents took place in China. We inquire into the past by looking closely into the textual or material remains of the past: thanks to the digital revolution, we now have access to a large corpus of newspaper articles. The Gale Newsvault is probably the largest online newspaper archives in the English-speaking world: almost all the newspapers published since the seventeenth century are now a few clicks away at your fingertips. How wonderful! Search for Gale Newsvault: https://library.mcmaster.ca/

Or click below:


2. Method

In these archives, you should look for three articles, at least, that you think are directly relevant to your own topics. You should read the articles of your own choice as closely as you can in order to formulate cogent arguments as to one of the three questions below.

Topic 1) The Opium Trade: What were the arguments in critique (or favor) of the opium trade during the years before and after the outbreak of the first Opium War (1839-1842)? Could you identify in the articles a systematic political doctrine that supported these arguments?

Topic 2) The Opium Wars: What were the real causes of the Opium Wars as interpreted by the Westerners at the time? What benefits or consequences did they think would result from these wars? The Opium Wars here refer to the first Opium War (1839-1842) and the second Opium War (1856-1860).

Topic 3) The Taiping Rebellion: How were the Taiping rebels perceived by the Westerners? How did their views of the Taiping rebels change over the course of the Rebellion (1851-1864)?

Based on a close analysis of the articles of your choice, you should compose an analytical essay addressing any of the three topics above. Each topic contains a set of questions: you should compose a coherent essay that tackles these questions in a systematic way. Use Spence’s Search for Modern China and A Documentary Collection to provide historical backgrounds. In consultation with your TAs, you can use some other secondary sources; however, the main purpose of this assignment is to have you analyze the original documents that you have discovered in the archives.

*Do not attempt to answer these questions one by one. This is not an exam. You should develop your own themes addressing these questions in your own way. Be creative!


1. Length: 4-5 pages (Double-spaced; Times New Roman 12 point)

2. Due Date: 11:59 pm Oct.10th, 2020. Submit the Electronic File to Dropbox on the AVENUE.

3. Title: Your essay should have a running head (condensed title) and a sub-title.

<Example>: “Liberation for Opium Eaters: an Analysis of Satires on the Opium War in the British Empire in the 1840s”

The running head might capture a key idea or provide a catchy statement. The subtitle will define your approach to this issue. As to the sub-title, you must be as specific as possible, articulating both the case of your choice and its historical context.

With this title, you can creatively tackle the questions given in Topic 1.

4. Footnotes: Follow the following format throughout.

Spence, 172; Documentary Collections, 218; “the troubles in China,” March 12, 1857, New York Times; “Letter of Hyu Ly (opium-eater) to Captain Elliot,” The Times, April 17, 1841.

5. We have all the previous essays systematically archived: your essays will be electronically screened. Please do not even think about plagiarizing!

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