Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History


Our average prices are Old Patna $600, New Patna $694.52, New Benares $700.83, and Malwa $684.27. The Malwa was hardly touched until all the other drug was cleared out, and I fell confident you would be satisfied with the price got for the old Patna if you saw the state in which it now is. The balls are dried up and many of them half bouldered away, others which to appearance are perfect rattle when shaken. The opium inside being dried up and shrunk.

Captain Mackay at Lintin to William Jardine in Canton, April 26th, 1834.*

In the 1830s, most of the opium that reached China came from either Patna or Benares (Varanasi), neighboring regions located inland from the port of Calcutta. Opium from Patna and Benares was rolled into large balls, each weighing around 6 pounds, and packed 40 balls per chest for auction in Calcutta and the journey to China. The image above shows a large opium factory in Patna in 1850, just a few years after the events of this module take place.

In the above quote, Captain Mackay informs William Jardine that the 1833 Patna opium is in poor shape and must be sold off at a low price compared to the 1834 Patna.

Below is historian Carl Trocki's description of opium production in Patna:

In Patna, there were 1000 men employed as cakers, who worked from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day in the huge sheds erected for the factory. They labored throughout the hot season in temperatures of up to 40°C (103°F). A bell was rung every twenty minutes and each cake-maker's output was checked. The average output for the Patna factory was between 16,000 and 20,000 cakes daily.**

*Source: MS.JM/B7 26 [Reel 8, No. 67] Mackay to Jardine, 4.26.1834

**Source: Carl Trocki, Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy: A Study of the Asian Opium Trade, 1750-1950 (Oxon: Routledge, 1999), 70.

This page has paths:

This page has tags:

This page is referenced by:

This page references: