Opium, secret societies, free trade: A comparative study of British colonial rule in nineteenth century Singapore and Hong Kong

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Abstract

In the nineteenth century, Britain possessed two important bases for its "free trade policy" in Southeast and East Asia - Singapore and Hong Kong. The success of the British free trade policy in these regions hinged on their ability to make Singapore and Hong Kong flourish. To achieve this end, the colonial governments had to overcome two obstacles: the problem of raising revenue and the maintenance of public order. As both Singapore and Hong Kong were free ports, the colonial governments were prevented from collecting revenue through tariffs. Thus, somehow they had to obtain revenue from the local populace, which in both cases was mainly Chinese. With respect to public order, both administrations had to deal with crimes, riots, and strikes engaged in by the Chinese. In this paper, I try to reveal how the British colonial governments in Singapore and Hong Kong dealt with these issues of revenue rasing and policing. In terms of revenue-raising, I examine the importance of the opium farming system under the two administrations; with regard to public order, I investigate how the Chinese secret societies were policed. By comparing practices in these colonies. I aim to describe the character of colonial rule in Singapore and Hong Kong and how it reflected the British "free trade policy".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-519
Number of pages18
JournalSoutheast Asian Studies
Volume40
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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