In addition to the first-hand accounts presented under “War Stories” in this Visualizing Cultures unit, see the following basic sources.

Older Secondary Sources (Online)

William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Death of Queen Victoria (Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1901), vol. 6, pp. 279-304. (complete view on Google Books)
This is a partisan, patriotic account—but very useful on the battles as they unfolded. Some of the military information in this Visualizing Cultures unit derives from this source.

Hosea Ballou Morse, The International Relations of the Chinese Empire (Longmans, Green, and Co., London, NY, Bombay, Calcutta, 1910), vol. 1, The Period of Conflict, 1834-1860, chapters 1 through 13.
(complete view on Google Books)

Recent Secondary Sources (Online)

Hsin-pao Chang, Commissioner Lin and the Opium War (Harvard University Press, 1964). (preview)

W. Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello, The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (Sourcebooks, Inc., 2002). (preview)

Frederic E. Wakeman’s often cited analysis of the Sanyuanli incident in his book Strangers at the Gate: Social Disorder in South China, 1839-1861. (view)

Susanna Hoe, Derek Roebuck, The Taking of Hong Kong: Charles and Clara Elliot in China Waters (Hong Kong University Press, 1999, 2009). (preview)

Korea in the Eye of the Tiger at the Korean History Project website at
Chapters 17, 18, and 19 of this unannotated narrative account address the first
Opium War in a readable way that may be particularly appealing to teachers and students.

Basic Textbook & Scholarly Accounts

The following sources are not online, but provide solid textbook accounts of the first Opium War:

Immanuel C. Y. Hsü, The Rise of Modern China (Oxford University Press, 1970),
ch. 8

Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China (Norton, 1999), pp. 147-64.

Jonathan Spence, “Opium,” Chinese Roundabout (Norton, 2003), pp. 228-56, 372-82.

John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer & Albert M. Craig, East Asia: Tradition and Transformation (Houghton Mifflin, 1978), pp. 448-61.

The following monographs address various aspects of the first Opium War in detail:

Peter Ward Fay, The Opium War, 1840-1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 1998)

Arthur Waley, The Opium War through Chinese Eyes (Stanford University Press, 1963)

Jessie Gregory Lutz, Opening China: Karl F. A. Gützlaff and Sino-Western Relations, 1827-1852 (William B. Erdsman Publishing, 2008)

Jack Beeching, The Chinese Opium Wars (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY and London, 1975)

Wikipedia Sites for the First Opium War

A number of sites on Wikipedia provide useful information about the first Opium War, along with graphics and helpful crosslinks. The topical list that follows here focuses on battles, is roughly chronological, and is not exhaustive. Wikipedia also contains entries on individuals involved in the first Opium War (Lin Zexu, Charles Elliot et al.), as well as a (very disorderly) assemblage of images accessible through the “Images” click-on or through Wikimedia.

“First Opium War”
“Battles of the First Opium War”
“Battle of Kowloon”
“Battle of Chuenpee”
“Capture of Chusan”
“Battle of the Barrier”
“Second Battle of Chuenpee”
“Convention of Chuenpee”
“Battle of the Bogue”
“Battle of First Bar”
“Battle of Whampoa”
“Battle of Canton”
“Battle of Chinkiang”

Links to Sources in Google Books Pertinent to Aspects of the First Opium War

Excerpts from Blair B. Kling, “Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the age of enterprise in eastern India,” (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, London, 1976), esp. a description of the Waterwitch, 90-1. (view)

Article from Abel Stevens, editor, “The National Magazine, devoted to Literature, Art, and Religion, Volume 5, July to December, 1854,” (Carlton & Phillips, NY, 1854), esp. “The Opium Trade in the East,” 335-41. (view)

1882 publication The Truth about Opium Smoking, which reproduces Sherwill’s Patna graphics on pages 112-17. (view)

Julia Corner, China: Pictorial, Descriptive, and Historical (Henry G. Bohn, London, 1853), esp. “Reduction of Amoy” 251-2. (view)

Excerpts from Hunt Janin, “The India-China Opium Trade in the Nineteenth Century,” (McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC, 1999) esp. “Chinese Ships: ‘Centipedes’ and Government War Junks,” 94-5. (view)

Excerpts from “Wrecks on the New South Wales Coast,” Jack Kenneth Loney, (Lonestone Press, 1993 and 2001, Victoria, Australia), esp. “Ly-ee-moon,” 88. (view)

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff, A Sketch of Chinese History: Ancient and Modern (John P. Haven, New York, 1834). (view) Alternate online version (view)

Excerpts from Jessie Gregory Lutz, “Opening China: Karl F.A. Gützlaff and Sino-Western relations, 1827-1852,” (Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K., 2008), esp: “Gützlaff’s Coastal Journeys: Opium Ships,” “Gützlaff and the Prosecution of the Opium War, 1840-1842.” (view)

“The Chinese Emperor, Mien-Ning,” The Illustrated Magazine of Art, vol. 1 (New York, 1853), 271-72. (view)

Excerpts from James M. Polachek, The Inner Opium War (Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard, 1992), esp. “Lin Tse-Hsu and the Anti-Opium Campaign,” 141. (view)

Yangwen Zheng, The Social Life of Opium in China, (Cambridge University Press, 2005), esp. map: “The Opium Trade in China, 1833-1839,” 71. (view)

Ssu-yu Teng & John K. Fairbank, China’s Response to the West (Harvard College, 1954, 1979, 1982), esp. “Commissioner Lin’s Program for Meeting the British Aggression.” (view)

A discussion of the parliamentary debates in W. Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello, The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another (Sourcebooks, Napier, IL, 1992). (view)

MIT Visualizing Cultures


“The First Opium War” was developed by
Visualizing Cultures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and presented on MIT OpenCourseWare.

MIT Visualizing Cultures:
John W. Dower
Project Director
Emeritus Professor of History

Shigeru Miyagawa
Project Director
Professor of Linguistics
Kochi Prefecture-John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture

Ellen Sebring
Creative Director

Scott Shunk
Program Director

Andrew Burstein
Media designer

In collaboration with:
Peter C. Perdue
Department of History
Yale University


Contributing Archives

Visualizing Cultures is indebted to the following sources for images
presented in this unit.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
British Library
British Museum
Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library
Hong Kong Museum of Art
National Maritime Museum, London
Peobody Essex Museum
Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University
Victoria And Albert Museum, London
Wikimedia Commons
Wellcome Images, London

MIT Visualizing Cultures received generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, the Getty Foundation, Japan Foundation's Council for Global Partnership, National Endowment for the Humanities, and MIT's d'Arbeloff Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education and MIT Microsoft-funded iCampus project.



MIT Visualizing Cultures

On viewing images of a potentially disturbing nature: click here.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2011 Visualizing Cultures  Creative Commons License   Creative Commons - some rights reserved

MIT Visualizing Cultures
The First Opium War
MIT Visualizing Cultures
The First Opium War
MIT Visualizing CulturesMenu
MIT Visualizing Cultures
The First Opium War
MIT Visualizing Cultures VC Units MIT Visualizing Cultures About VC VC Scholars Partner Institutions Outreach Conferences & Events Contact Join Us Follow Us Essay Opium Trade Production & Consumption Hostilities 1st Unequal Treaty War Stories Sources
 & Credits Opium Trade Production & Consumption Hostilities 1st Unequal Treaty War Stories Sources & Credits Opium Trade Production & Consumption Hostilities 1st Unequal Treaty War Stories Sources & Credits Units Icon View Text View Curriculae The First Opium War Image Galleries The Opium War in Japanese Eyes The Second Opium War Curriculum