'A desperate traffic': John Francis Davis, China, the Opium Trade and the First Opium War

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The case of Sir John Francis Davis's troubled involvement with the British opium trade to China is a vexed one. This essay is an attempt to outline and hopefully disentangle some of the contradictions both personal but also governmental that surrounded the much-disputed trade in this most ambiguous commodity, both medicine and poison, taking as a case study Sir John Francis Davis, sinologist and diplomat. It discusses Davis' changing views on the trade from his days as an East India Company employee at Canton (Guangzhou) to his term as the second governor of the new Treaty Port of Hong Kong and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTribute and Trade: China and Global Modernity, 1784-1935.
EditorsWilliam Christie, QS Tong
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherSydney University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781743326008
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2020


  • Opium
  • Opium Trade
  • First Opium War
  • China

Cite this