How to guides… Poppy cultivation

This amazing detailed description is from a book I had been battling to get hold of for a year or more – Amer Farooqui’s “Smuggling as Subversion” 1998:

Once the ground was ready, poppy was sown at the rate of 2 to 2. 5 ser of seed per bigha. The seed was sown broadcast. Apart from the several waterings already referred to, much weeding and loosening of soil had to be attended to in the following months. Besides, when the plants were five or six inches above the ground they had to be thinned to distance of three inches.

As much if not more demanding for the peasant was the extraction of opium. Opium is the ‘inspissated juice obtained by scratching the unripe capsules’ of the poppy plant and ‘allowing the milky sap, which exudes therefirom to dry spontaneously’ This job requires considerable expertise. Lack of skill incoUectmg the jiuice (chik) from poppy capsules could ruin the crop. The peasants ofMalwa were reputed to have sufficient expertise in collecting juice from the poppy by the of the 19th century. 

So much so that when it was found in Gujarat that ‘unskilful management’ by novices ‘in extracting the juice from the pods and preparing the opium’ was leading to a considerable Ioss the ‘assistance of a few Experienced Cultivators from Malwa’ was sought.

When the capsules were half ripe between January and early March, they were punctured with a small trident formed in an instrument of three short prongs on blades at a distance of about the fourth of an inch asunder. Using this instrument three vertical incisions would be made upwards in capsules.

Weather conditions prevailing between January and mid March were a critical factor in determining the nature of the harvest . Even minor variations in weather at this stage could tell on the poppy.

For collecting the juice, the practice in Malwa was to divide a field into four parts and take up ripe plants of two portions in a single day. Since the collection of juice had to be preceded by scratching of the unripe capsules the previous evening, on any given day juice would be scraped off plants of the first part (which had been operated on the day before), while towards evening incisions would be made on plants of the second part to permit collection of their juice, the coagulated latex, the next day and so on. The poppy capsule should properly be wounded late in the evening after sunset. It has to be left overnight after scarnfication and its opaque narcotic juice is collected next morning. The poppies could be bled three to four times for collecting their juice, and thus the entire operation had to be repeated as many times‘.

Smuggling – of tea to Scotland?

The Commission of Customs Scotland to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, reporting on the subject of trade with India, in 1812, examined Earl, Osborne and Ferrier (traders) on the question of smuggling ‘tea’. The answer is instructive – smuggling will increase if EIC ships are permitted to trade in Scottish waters. That is, lets be clear, English ships smuggling ‘tea’ to Scotland. Recall that these ships mostly carry other goods than tea, but in smuggling, the trick is not to declare. Records reported elsewhere – I think in Judt, have to check back – indicated some half a million pounds worth or goods a year was ‘pilfered’ from vessels in the Thames at London – that’s half a million of the declared consignments. The need to read between the lines – what does other ‘East India Goods’ really mean, and what does it not mean? The remittances off the books was a healthy trade for, in Feldbaek’s examples, for Danish shipping out of Serampore.

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Opium not as interesting as money for the parliament, even as…

pound-749763

Reading various Blue Books and the like, parliamentary reports. This one on the East India Company struck me as typical, though the clipped coins distraction is of course curious enough to make the distraction distracting. I recall that Jacques Derrida writes on clipped coins in his essay Given Time, and George Caffentzis has a fascinating book on Locke: Clipped Coins, Abused Words, Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money, both of which repay reading in the light of this old evidence from 1832. A certain smuggler-trader called Davidson is giving evidence to the parliamentary committee.

The casual racism, that the committee was more interested in dollars and silver than the opium trade – which as Marx of course recalls, was a vicious and vengeful trade – and as carried on by what is called the Country Ships, or Country Trade, which means those private traders not in the employ of the East IndiaCompany but often doing the work of its servants or agents, its officers, who made their cut on such up-country ventures, from Clive on.

90% of the cargo cotton and opium.

The dollar is clipped

It does not thereby lose in value (since weight in silver still applies)

Holes in the coins – sometimes for stringing, but often they are punched and clipped (the idea is that you clip a bit of each of a dozen coins and melt the bits up into a new coin, or you punch out the middle, as circle or square, and use it as a smaller denomination coin). Eventually this clipping, and punching, practice defeats the denominations, and weight reasserts its interest.

Which all for me is interesting and if you think its ancient stuff, just look in your pocket and see – the British two pound is a punched coin, with gold rim, silver (alloy) middle, the Australian 50 cent piece is clipped on all sides, as is the Brit 20p and the Indian 5 paise, Danish 1, 2 and 5 krone have holes, the Thai Bhat reminiscent of the counter punched ones (and for a time was very useful in cigarette machines in England, a healthy killing made by arriving with pockets full of Bhat when travelling to pommie). Also various denominations of the yen, oh and I see the new British pound is a tribute to the clipped coin too – OK, look again at the pound pictured above, I call it, the contemporary British pound coin is in effect a silent tribute to the age-old bastard opium trade, in the memory of Walter Stevenson Davidson Esquire, giving evidence below:

 

Do you happen to know whether Advantage has been taken of the Removal of that Restriction from the Import of British Manufactures into China from India?

I have heard it stated to be so; I have understood that it has been done profitably.

What particular Species of Manufactures?

I really cannot enumerate them.

They have not been to any great Extent?

No, I think not; principally by the Officers of Ships. I should think not to an Extent sufficient much to attract the Attention of the great Houses in India.

What were the chief Articles consigned to you for Sale in China by your Constituents?

The chief Articles were Cotton and Opium; they formed, I think, upwards of Nine Tenths of my Consignments.

What were your Returns?

Besides the Supercargoes Bills on the Indian Government, when they drew, I remitted very largely in Sycee Silver, the Production of China, in Tutenag, and many other Articles.

Any in Dollars?

Sometimes in Dollars. We were occasionally compelled to remit in Dollars, owing to the Difficulty of smuggling the Sycee Silver; but never resorted to that Mode, I think, when we could obtain the Sycee Silver.

The Dollar in China is very much beaten and broken, is it not?

Constantly cut and clipped in all Directions; it almost ceases to be a Dollar when it has circulated in China; there it is weighed as Silver; all Payments are made by Weight.

Is the Dollar, in consequence of this beating and breaking, diminished in intrinsic Value in China?

The Moment the Dollar is clipped it cannot be said to diminish in Value, because it will be taken afterwards just for its Weight in Silver, although it be punched and clipped through and through.

 

(citation: ‘Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence, 25 June 1830’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830 (London, [n.d.]), pp. 1156-1164. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol62/pp1156-1164 [accessed 28 March 2018].)

Restored 18th century Danish tavern to be inaugurated today

[JH comment: now if you were plying the illicit opium trade on behalf of dodgy East India Company officials, you’d also need to stop by the Tavern and deal. I guess]

DanishTavernopenFrom; The Milennium Post

by Nandini Guha | 28 Feb 2018 12:20 AM

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209

Kolkata: An 18th Century Danish tavern that was in ruins, has been finally restored into a 120-seater café and lodge overlooking the Ganges at Serampore, by the Ministry of Tourism and the Government of Denmank. The heritage property will be inaugurated on Wednesday by Indranil Sen, the minister of state for Tourism and several ambassadors representing the Nordic countries. The tavern dates back to 1786. Restoration work was taken up by heritage architect Manish Chakraborti and his team in 2015. “A lot of European vessels used to ply on the river during that time. They used to spend a night in transit at the tavern. When we took over restoration though, it was in ruins. The roof had collapsed and there was debris everywhere. Now the old building has been restored to its old classical beauty,” Chakraborti told Millennium Post. The cost of restoration has been borne by the National Museum of Denmark (Rs 3.5 crore) and the state Tourism Department (Rs 1.5 crore). The Tourism Department is presently looking for an operator to run the café and it is expected that it will be fully operational in a month. “The important thing is that the government is investing in a heritage building that has now been converted into a reusable commercial space. As far as the menu is concerned, the operator has to keep in mind that this is Serampore and not Park Street. The pricing could be similar to cafes like Flury’s or Mrs Magpie. And of course, it will be a boost for the state’s tourism prospects,” added Chakraborti. Chakraborti had earlier won a UNESCO award for restoring the 200 year old St Olaf’s Church in Serampore, again an initiative of the Government of Denmark and the West Bengal government.

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209

Karen Tam opiumartifacts.

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 21.48.01Opium dens taking over galleries has a perfect beauty. I was reminded telling a friend about this and thought it was time once again for another promo on here – folks, the Opiates kick back, or something…

Check Karen’s work out here:
scroll down about six pics for the opium den, the other stuff are her porcelains, and trinkets, then a bit further down for the cardboard cut outs of chinamen.
and more cut outs here:

English heritage trinkets

Apparently on sale at National Trust sites are mugs with this marking underneath. 


Thanks Katherine S for the pointer. My view is to welcome this as an historically accurate statement – English heritage was made in China, also known as profiting from the Opium trade. First time I’ve seen this NatTru admission but it has to be welcomed. There was no-one willing to discuss this at Powis Castle (home of Lord Clive) when we visited.