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Novelist Amitav Ghosh

Novelist Amitav Ghosh takes us into the heart of the 19th century opium trade, when the West fed addiction in China.

Amitav Ghosh (amitavghosh.com)

Amitav Ghosh (amitavghosh.com)

Go back almost two centuries, and the global drug trade is roaring. But it’s not bloody Mexican gangs on the US border. Not even close. It’s British traders and American and more – Union Jacks and Old Glory flying high – pouring opium into imperial China.

Vast quantities of opium in chests piled high in sailing ships and warehouses on the Chinese coast. Up river in Canton. Vast fortunes being made. East and West squaring off over a deadly, debilitating trade. It’s quite a moment.

This hour On Point: novelist Amitav Ghosh takes us deep into that drug trade in “River of Smoke.”

-Tom Ashbrook


Amitav Ghosh, Booker Prize-winning author, his new book, River of Smoke, is the second book of his Ibis trilogy. You can find an excerpt here.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian “Amitav Ghosh’s two latest novels carry us deep inside the opium trade in the 1830s. River of Smoke is the second volume of a proposed trilogy. The first, Sea of Poppies, published in 2008, took us along the Ganges and to Calcutta, where the poppies are grown and the opium processed.”

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  • Terry Tree Tree

    NOT a pretty picture of the U.S., Britain or France!   Yesteryear, or today.   Can you say CIA?  Can you say Methamphetamine?  Can you say Pain Clinic?  With all the $Billions, or $Trillions spent on the ‘War on Drugs’, why do most communities have MORE drug problems, than when the ‘War on Drugs’ started.  Why is the CIA, and its many ‘Security contractors’, allowed to import drugs into the U.S.?
        Drugs were, and are used for subjugation of the workers, and to control the populace.

    • Sam, Buffalo, NY

      Hi Terry,

      You don’t think that the person choosing to take the drug is at least partially responsible?

      Yes, some have weaker wills and not able to stop. And some can. Some hit the system, and able to recover, with help from those that care and their families and community. And some don’t and can’t. Mostly because they don’t want to.

      People WANT to take drugs. If there was no demand, there will be no supply.

      I think that as long as we do not blame the person, at least partial blame, and make them take responsibility for their own actions, this and many other problems will persist.

      Too many people in this country saying – “Not my problem. Not in my ultra white suburban neighborhood! It is not happening to my friends and family, why should I care?!” About everything.
      About drugs, about poverty, education, abuse, disrespect, bullying, etc. Too many people do not want to get involved and get their hands ‘dirty’ with problems that are happening … just near enough, but not too close.

      But at the same time, the other side of this coin. Sometimes there is TOO much involvement. Too much ‘TALK’ about an issue.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Yes, Sam, I do also blame the drug user, that chooses to be one.  Medical Physicians (majority of which are drug-abusers), get people hooked on drugs that they don’t need.  Pushers get new people hooked in various ways, tobbacco companies get people hooked with legal drug-addiction ( what percentage of the drug-addicts that you suspect, DON’T use tobbbacco?)
            Where I live, Methamphetamine, and other drugs are a MAJOR problem, and the thefts for it, have hurt the Emergency Services of the communities!   Even AFTER we have helped save their very lives!!

        • Sam, Buffalo, NY

          I know. It is very sad.
          Tobacco, alcohol, meth, other drugs …
          It’s a big problem. And it’s not just their problem, it’s ours too, because if it affects one life, one family, it affects the community, the city and the rest of us.

          I wish there was a way out. A healthy, non-violent way to help.
          Problem is, most addicts don’t want help. They don’t want to stop.

          They may say they do. But in reality they don’t.

          It’s hard. Especially if it hits close to home.

          I think to help eradicate this problem we need to start early on. With kids. In schools and communities.
          There are kids whose parents aren’t really parents, who do not teach their kids good values and morals. For those kids, I think teachers and community leaders need to step in and help.
          And then there are kids who … just act out, get into trouble, even with responsible and involved parents. Those families need help as well.

          I think we need to spend more on education and community programs. I think we – intelligent, educated, responsible adults – need find ways to help, to be available, to believe, hope and work.

          But many people already overtaxed, overworked and overextended. A lot of parents and adults feel no loyalty, no trust, no help from their employers, communities, government, and other organizations. How can we ask them to care more, when all they (and we) feel is anger, resentment and hopelessness?

          I don’t know. I wish there was an easy solution to most world’s and our problems. But there isn’t. And the only thing you can do is be positive, optimistic, kind and generous, virtuous, patient and caring.
          Lead by example. Be the change you want to see in others. :)

          I know it’s a “little” off-topic, but I believe when we have kids and adults busy with meaningful things in their lives, when there are good paying jobs that adults and teenagers can get and hold to support their families, when men and women and kids feel safe and stable and respected, then we may have less people getting into drugs.

          There are already organizations exist that help addicts to recover. But maybe a better solution will be to not have addicts at all. Not have kids and young adults get into situations where they try it and later unable and unwilling to quit.

          Thank you

        • Sam, Buffalo, NY

          RE: and the thefts for it, have hurt the Emergency Services of the communities!   Even AFTER we have helped save their very lives!!

          They simply do not value their lives, which is why they don’t appreciate ambulances, ER doctor and nurses, and other who help, for saving it.

          Maybe the solution to the problem is to show them that they are valued, that their lives are valuable and important.

          Someone has to make that first step and trust people who are not trusted by (even) themselves.

          There are very few people in this world that can and willing to do that. :)

          How many of us are willing to look at that meth addict and say “he is worthy, he is worthwhile, he has some goodness in him that is salvageable and worth saving and helping. he can improve and grow and change.”

          I bet the answer is .. not too many.

          • Ari Handslinger

            Simple:  let’s make it easier for humans to have satisfying lives that are richer and more rewarding than being a drug-addict.

            When a researcher made a “mouse paradise” for his colony—lots of clean water, plentiful food, lots of other mice with whom to fight and mate and play—the mice hit up the cocaine lever a couple of times a day or less.  It’s mice alone in cages with nothing else worth doing that hit it repeatedly.

            I’m not asking for much, just that every human being have exactly as much freedom to do as they will without fear of privation as does any child of Mr Gates or Mssrs Koch or Mr Soros.

    • at

      I suspect that historians will look back in awe at how this whole thing worked and went on for decades.

      US in south east asian war — drugs  come from golden triange
      US in Panama invasion — drugs coming from south America
      US at war in Afganistan and Iran — drugs coming from our allies The Northern Alliance of antiTaliban drug dealers.

      Attack on Afganistan timed to protect the opium harvest from the Taliban. Incidentally the Taliban got rid of opium production (mostly) could it be that we could not stand for that. When the line that distinguishes one’s government from the mafia is indistinguishable perhaps it is a time for a new government?

      Power to the people. Then the economy will thrive.
      But the parasites on Wall Street have changed their names to
      the Job Creators. Which is the tizmus of double think. They have destroyed more jobs than drought and disease and arial bombardment of US factories. These producers.

      Here’s a video with some of the facts about the drug war 


      • Ari Handslinger

        I think that’s not quite right.  As I understand it, the Talibs first banned opium, but then (as they got more corrupt, or decided that they needed the money, or decided that it were better that not every farmer hate them) actively supported the crop and trade.  They said that opium usage was not an Afghani vice—incorrect, but a good smoke-screen—but that hashish, on the other hand, was, and so they fiercely clamped down on it.

        What is a ‘tizmus’?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    And the US and Brits are still controlling the opium fields. In fact, guarding them with US troops,  and blaming their existence on the Taliban. 

    During the Opium Trade,  upright blueblood families in England and US,like the Cabots and the Lodges, and their cabalists from the Crown,  built the Industrial Revolution on opium trade and forced drug use backed by gun boats. 

    The British Empire was built on piracy, opium, native genocide, slavery and unbridled murderous imperialist exploitation.  Pretty much the same for the USA.  And now we are seeing the blow back from ALL the former colonies as the western ponzi scheme collapses.

    • at

      There are so many distinctions to be made between the U.S. and The British Empire that I cannot even address it here. I know that it seem that the United Kingdom and The United States are like brothers from another mother  right now, but that is only due to the corporate controlled media and the sharing of a common language. It is just the nature of humans and all animals to exploit any survival advantage they may have. History has shown time and time again that it doesn’t matter  what color or ethnicity or sex, the humans who gain control of nations and tribes and parties are usually the meanest and most delusional wolfs in the pack (it doesn’t matter what their mouths say). It’s human nature. It’s also human nature to point ant others and accuse them of doing exactly what you would do in a similar situation, but perhaps with different trappings.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        The only difference I see between Brits and USers, is that Brits are more polite. With that said, English has become the language or lies, deceit and war.    They are both brutal plunderors and distinctly mimic each other in the worst of ways.

        • Lana

          We also allow you to speak your mind…in English or any language you chose!

          • Jakejobs

            Not all the time… Unless there are laws or its enforcement to protect the whitle blowers and truthsayers.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

            Sure Lana,  I quess freedom of speech on obscure blogs is a great benefit in a country involved in corrupt, unfounded wars, genocide, slavery, imperialism, opium running. etc. etc.

            Real freedom of speech in America will cost you your job and family.  It doesnt really exist.

        • at

          The only reason that you fail to see the huge difference in culture and creed is because you are not very perceptive. I could teach you a course on all these various distinctions but I doubt you could afford such instruction. Your lack of knowledge does not automatically make your ignorance wisdom. There is no doubt that in the growth of every nation the forces of evil encroach, here in the US capitalism has been allowed to run amok, and somewhat subvert our democracy. However it is a fool who believes that the total impact of the US on the world and world history is in the balance negative. And it is twice a fool who thinks that there is any semblance at all between the United Kingdom’s impact and that of the US, except that in a sense we were left to straighten out the mess their empire had left the world in in the places were they drew a country on a map that would incorporate several feuding peoples then put the minority in charge and leaf, like in almost everything we call nations in the middle east.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

            Hey “at”,  I probably know a lot more than your wishful analysis.  Check out the history of United Fruit Co. in central america, and America’s incursion in the Philippines.  I could go on and on, and continue with a bogus War on Terror.  I do not see a great distinction.  Certainly the English plundered and left a mess, and the USA made more of a mess in their wake. In retrospect,  foreign countries should have ran for their lives upon hearing bagpipes and the English language.

          • ContanceDuke

            You still failed to get the point. The specifics are irrelevant you are talking about what all humans have done thorough-out all of history. If anything the US has done less of it than any country in a similar position, of which there none and have been few, Rome comes to mind, The British Empire, The Spanish empire, Chinese emperors who would kill an entire neighborhood if one child slandered the government. Etc. You should have run even faster if a stranger showed up at your village with a cross speaking Spanish or Portuguese, three times the number of slaves in Cuba that were in all of the US and five time the number in Brazil. You can continue to project all human evils on the anglophiles but anyone with any sense knows you are just picking and choosing. And of course someone like you would never admit that the sacrifices that Americans have made for other nations were anything but self-interest, and you would be correct, enlightened self-interest.

  • Huyu

    Let’s be clear about this. The West did not feed the “addiction” in China. The British drug-runners and the British empire FORCED an addiction on China by the means of gunboats, which China itself had relinquished by the 19th century.

    • at

      Let’s be clear about this: The West did not force anything on China the armed trading corporations of the British Empire did this. And while there were several New York trading houses that also delivered opium to China, they did not do so by military force. The Brits pretty much insisted on having their way when they could, and they loved to use cannon, and later machine guns and poison gas, on any surly natives that opposed them. The only trade that China was interested in was in trading for silver, which they had a shortage of and opium which they had massive taste for. It was the change of heart of the Chinese government on opium use, and the seizure of British property that brought about the bombardments and forced the settlements on China.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        American clipper ships from well known New England families were fully involved in the opium trade.   The BRITISH NAVY forced down the Chinese govt opposition to this trade with blockading the Yangsea and taking control of Hong Kong. 

        • at

          Yes a British Navy that was the instrument of the trade interests of the empire. It wasn’t some nebulous “West” that bombarded the Chinese  coast, and it wasn’t the American government.

          • Junetenth

            Go wiki, you will a few more name than Brits, by and large, Brits, French and USA do represent West, for good thing and for not-so-good things.

          • at

            Opium is not evil, There are areas  were everyone uses opium without a problem. It is the silver leaving Chinese shores that bummed out the royals, not the health of the people. If you think that the Chinese royals would cross the steet to save a peasants life, in most cases you would be mistaken. The Chinese royals cared nothing for the health of their populace outside of how it would affect them financially. This is in general, of course here may have been a few exceptions. The only people to abuse the Chinese more than themselves were the Japanese, that was a whole other order of malice. See the old Chinese royals cared as much about the health of their populace as Herman does about yours

      • Sasha Yin

        Let’s be clear: the West refers to the British Empire and its allies and accomplices … 

  • jim

    I am quite glad OnPoint is willing to provide Amitav Ghosh an interview and speak about the dark and evil side of United States’ past. As much as I am highly against illegal drugs, I feel it is pay back time today. Mexicans are pouring coke and other drugs to the US. What comes around goes around.

    To many kids in America, The United States is the not “good” guys in the past. in fact this country is the bad guys, the empire described in Star Wars.. the president of the United States was the Dark Vadar of its time. The British government is the other bad guys.. with its storm troopers raiding and ransacking other countries including China.

  • http://twitter.com/amrRcanidealst American Idealist

     what is the guests thoughts on the letter Commissioner Lin sent  to queen Victoria ?

  • Tong Geraldine

    Are you aware of the opium war? This is a classical example of the evil of Capitalism and Emperiorism.  British pushed the opium to China by ragging war against Chinese people.  So if you don’t let me poison your people, let me kill them by war.

    • Ari Handslinger

      Actually, a government’s banning the use of a recreational drug is tyrannical, and is done in no decent nation.  The government of China at the time was illegitimate, as true executive power should dervice from a mandate from the masses, not from line-of-descent from conquerors or some farcical ceremony (aquatic, Confucian, Christian, or otherwise).

      This does not excuse the British’s using force to restore to the Chinese people this natural right for the simple reason that they didn’t care a jot or tittle for the other tyrannical actions of the government.

  • Caleb from Jamaica Plain, MA


    Please mention that the use of the drug trade for Imperial purposes is hardly a thing of the past. I am sure you are aware of the work of late Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Gary Webb in uncovering the nefarious activity the CIA in strategically funneling crack-cocaine to African American ghettos in the United States during the 1980s & 90s to fund both covert operations to protect commercial interests in the developing world as well as suppress potential dissent in a marginalized community at home.

    Also, we observe the recent, startling revelations of the RTF’s Operation Fast and Furious (aka Project Gun Runner), in which the agency intentionally – in concert with other federal authorities – is exporting thousands of firearms across the border into the hands of Latin American drug cartels in the midst of massive civil strife & lawlessness in Mexico, supposedly to “track where the firearms go” while simultaneously forbidding its agents to do just that.

    Imperialism always proceeds through outright seizure or indirect seizure.  No subsistence agricultural community has EVER given away its land to work voluntarily 110 hours a week in a dangerous sweatshops for bare subsistence wages.

  • Heleni Thayre

    Many famous American fortunes – not only British as you point out -had their origin in the Opium trade.  God, freedom, free trade, opium – all extolled by British and American traders.

    That says it all about our current orgy of greed in the name of capitalism, doesn’t it?

    Very interesting too, that though opium was not illegal in Britain and America, it was illegal in China, as the Chinese understood it’s damage to them.  In the end they were forced to go to war to stop the trade.  

    They were horribly abused.  Shame on us!!

    • ThePope

      If I remember correctly it was EVERY major shipping company in New England and New York that was involved with the exception of the House of Ohliphant, which refused on moral ground and was painted as holier than thou because of it.

  • MaximF

    A fascinating show. Who knew that modern Mexican drug cartels have nothing on the best families of XIX century Boston and London? I look forward to reading Amitav Ghosh’s books.

    • Ari Handslinger

      With time, a cult becomes a respected religion, a fringe idea becomes orthodoxy, and the young courtesan can become a Grande Dame.

      A Roman who made his money collecting urine for use in fulling wool (and other purposes) supposedly took for his family motto:  “Money has no smell.”

      This is yhet another reminder that “respectability” is no perfect guide to “legitimacy”—it’s just a word describing the people we feel should or must be listened-to.

  • Sasha Yin

    I cannot wait to read your book, Mr. Ghosh. What you said on this show today resonates with many Chinese Americans like me. Thank you for bringing up this historical perspective. Thank you, Tom, for giving opportunity to a subject that’s been heavy on Chinese collective consciousness where ever they are ….

  • Mike

    The U.S. press depicted Chinatowns in the U.S. in the 19th century as centers of opium smoking (and the seduction of white women). Almost all the Chinatown residents were from southern China where the U.S. and Britain was pushing opium and addicting ever larger numbers. Of course, this role went unacknowledged

  • Vue Lin

    Where is Ken Burns? The PBS needs to hire him for another documentary on the Opium trade!

  • Liuzhouren 柳州人

    Thank you so much, Mr. Ghosh, for this beautifl novel about the historical event!!
    Surprisingly, when I mentioned Opium War to friends here in America, people shook heads, and added they didn’t know about this; when I mentioned Anti-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanjing, they told me they didn’t know …  Looking at historical events from more persepctives offer a fuller look of the event. This beautiful novel definitely provides that important puzzle piece, closer to the local poeple’s perspectives, that’s been ABSENT for centuries in the western world.
    Meanwhile, interestingly, this refreshing perspective has been preserved vividly in China, lots of them. The rest of the world just did not know about it, it seems this is one of those ” well-kept secrets” in the Oriental World, which seems to prove that the WALL between the East and the West is standing TALL.
    I am going to difinitely read your beautiful novels “River of Smoke’ and “Sea of Poppies”. Looking forward to your third one too!!!

    • Ari Handslinger

      I’m afraid many of those Americans might not know of many important things in our own history.  This has always been (or, more importantly, painted itself) the land where you could make anything of yourself, your past didn’t matter, so as a corollary ‘history is bunk’.

      This goes part-and-parcel with many people’s believing that our economic system were such that conditions at any point don’t matter, the action of an efficient Market will result in a [Pareto] otpimal distribution of tasks and resources regardless of where we might start in life.

      I wouldn’t have been born if it weren’t for the Second World War, which was also responsible for wiping out about most of my family before I was born.  As such, history has always felt to me to be an intimately interesting topic—I am no more a product of it than is anyone else, but in my case (and I should guess yours) it is _obviously_ so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    I actually met a Scotsman, a hotshot financial type, in his Jardine Matheson office in Hongkong.  TRUE STORY.  He actually asked me if I was associated with the MAFIA.  I immediately let loose a history lesson of the Opium trade that left him somewhat stunned and introspective.  A moment I truly enjoyed.  Then the bunch of us had a few beers.

    • ThePope

      You’re my hero. . . .

  • VinnieVic4

    Mine too! Gee Paolo what country do you call home? Please tell me then I will deconstruct it’s various evil actions today and through out history. If you think that can’t be done, you are about as perceptive as AT has stated.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

      You can paint with a broad brush and you can dig deep back into the stone age for collective atrocities, by regarding my particular anecdote,  because of my ethnicity, i was questioned if I were a gangster FROM A PUNK WHOSE CAREER WAS DIRECTLY LINKED TO FORCED DRUG TRADE.  
      As for “AT” .   One does not have to dig too deep to paint the US and UK atrocities…distinctive as they may be.   

      • at

        You didn’t answer the question. (with good reason because you know you will be destroyed in an argument, so stop you sniping and show us your uniform boy.

      • godsbro

        Now there is a gang of five and NATO that are the vampires.
        UN permanent members  5 – US, Uk, France . China nad Russia.
        then NATO they screw every body else. Fair trade is a  day dream.

  • Gamesman

    Great show, thanks.

    I’d just like to comment that in modern times China has reversed the opium trade.  The scale and depth of its destructiveness on Western societies may be similar to the original trade.  We can trace Western social, economic and political malaise to the new trade.  The new drug is cheap credit.

    For decades China has been keeping its currency cheap in the face of big trade surpluses by buying and amassing trillions of dollars and euros.  This money it lends right back to America and Europe flooding the markets with cheap and easy credit and encouraging lifestyles and government policies (not to mention gambling by investment houses) that have proved to be unsustainable.  The whole tale is breathtaking in its sad demonstration of what human beings (specifically, powerful ones — as I don’t place blame on ordinary Chinese) do to each other in pursuit of power and wealth.

    • Sasha Yin

      If they have as you suggested, they learned it from the West

    • godsbro

      Chinese have become Economic hit men just like the Brits .
      They suck up Angola. just like we did in Bolivia nd just like our nation do in Latin America.

  • Christa cuevas

    I have been listening to Mr.Ghosh and am so pleased to hear a segment not only on the opium wars, but on the entire historic event that has helped shape our modern trading ways. I was pleasantly surprised when I tuned into NPR to hear this segment. I am a high school junior and a proud academic decathlon team member and it was only today in one of our after school meets that we studied the opium wars and the benefits it had on not only the British, but all of Europe’s imperialism.This segment has defiantly given me I site to the subject and I will certainly share this information with my fellow team mates! As for the opium issue itself, I feel that this case really emphasizes the idea that history repeats itself in comparison to the present day war on marijuana. A high nation is a happy nation in my book, but I thoroughly enjoyed this segment. It’s stories like this that make me crave a career in radio broadcasting.

    • Ari Handslinger

      Let this older person suggest that you stay away from drugs, except for the caffeine you’ll need to work at things about which you really don’t care, until you have stopped obviously growing.

      You are a teen-ager.  Drugs could not only become a (probably) vain pursuit in themselves—too many people wake up at 27 and say, ‘Where did the last ten years go?’—and might keep you from doing the three most important things you can do at your age:  learn to think, learn to handle interpersonal relations, and being perpetually pissed-off at the sorry mess adults have made of the world.

      No drug currently on the market can long help you learn, and most of them are bad for retaining knowledge, especially after you’re back.  People _notoriously_ make bad sexual and romantic decisions on drugs.  And drugs are often what people use to make unsatisfying lives tolerable—and we depend on the young to be dissatisfied, older people are usually both too tired and too bought-in to raise a fuss.

  • Sougata Das

    I learned this during my school days in India – in history. Actually most of today’s reputed business houses in India had been capitalized by the money coming from the trade. Anyway, a great show. Thanks Tom and Mr. Ghosh. 

    • godsbro

      Indians still adore Brits, they accept a second class status and literally kiss up to Brits in a disgusting way. I think Indians need to cultivate self esteem and pride more than any other In South East Asia.
      Indians are a billion or more yet, they don’t dare ask for aseat in the security council – a permanent one in the so called UN.
      They are succumbing to the big Five of the UN. ( just like in the African jungle).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Hey “at”    Do you think Mussolini killed more Abyssinians or others (including his own troops), than the UK or the USA with their firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo, and nuclear weapons. How are millions dead in Vietnam… for what?  Shock and Awe on bogus WMD.  LOL  Who are you going to destroy???    Where’s your uniform “MR. AT” ?

  • Bettyg

    I heard this interview.  It was fascinating.  Don’t know whether to read Sea of Poppies or River of Smoke first.

  • Carolyn

    Thank you, Mr. Ghosh, for telling this story abut the original drug dealers.  I find it interesting that many of these people were regarded as men of moral rectitude and philanthropists.   I have read accounts of convicted drug dealers from Jamaica who have said they were the sole provider of essential services such as food, employment, school lunches, etc in their impoverished communities.  Regardless, the end does not justify the means.

    • Dee

      In a way those drug dealers are still thieving today in the phram-acuitical industry. They just have legalized their wheeling and dealing while those on the streets are arrested and incarcerated
      for possession. That’s the shame of it all today…

      We have a broken system the powerful and money class are pro-
      tected at the expense of working people and the poor….This is
      the hypocrisy across the world today (think of the big polluters
       in industry too) and a new order for business standards espec-
      iaaly at the corporate level is needed…Dee

  • Roymerritt19

    Being a student of history I was well aware of this disappointing episode in British history.  Sadly I, at the same time, was unaware of American involvement is this despicable trade or of the many American families of great wealth’s involvement.  Not because I was ignorant of the overwhelming greed that was the motivation of many of them, but simply because my research into the situation had never progressed beyond this point.  I do however remember the cynical attitude that developed among many of the American military warriors who participated in imperialistic wars such as the “The Opium War!”  I am very familiar with one Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and a former Marine General in whose book “War Is A Racket” detailed his and American military involvement is such conflicts as the “Boxer Rebellion” and expeditionary forces in the Caribbean, Latin and South America to extort outlandish payments to European entities that had taken advantage of these weak countries in dire circumstances disguising it as enforcing “The Monroe Doctrine”.  In it he vividly describes much of the slaughter that took place and how he came to view the military as an instrument of business interest to the detriment of the western world.  Butler came to believe that he was nothing more than a hired thug working at the behest of these businesses.  One in particular was “The United Fruit Company”.  Comparing the military to such criminal syndicates as that run by the gangster Al Capone in Chicago Butler stated “We made Capone look like a piker!”  Because of such historical events as these  I don’t doubt that many in the east wince with cynicism themselves when the west demands they observe the necessary rules that make capitalism a viable economic system.  The west has to become keenly aware of the hypocrisy they have practiced and own up to it.  Books like these must become an integral part of the conversation between these diverse economic interests.  Perhaps when that is done both will adapt an economic approach towards each other that will be fair and beneficial to both sides.  Considering the economic situation the U.S. now faces and the continued power many of these same business interest still wield one is prompted to recall the old adage that “The more things change the more they stay the same!”  Nothing could be truer!

    Roy Merritt
    Wilmington, North Carolina      

    • elizabeth Regina

      All the misssery in the planet was/is made in England.

  • Dee

    I am looking forward to reading your book….Amitav Ghosh….
    I grew up at a time when the tea trade from china was as
    big as the Coffee trade from South America today…Dee

    P.S. Did you know the Christmas Plum Puddings was created
    to celebrate England successful coloniazation worldwide?

    It contained all the friuts and spicies and spirits found in the
    colonies and it was such a successful dish among ordinary
    English folks.  it was sent to the soldiers at The Front” during
    World War 11..(see Stanley Weintaub’s novel , Silent Night,
    The Christmas Truce of 1914 and photos from the trenches.
    (It all was so typically English….The medira cakes & sherries..

  • godsbro

    they are still doing it. Srilanka is an exemplary third world nation, they elected the first woman prime minister, almost all 95% can read and right, they provide free education and health care to all. no homeless, no shanty dwellings or South African style” townships”.
    Now British beat a drum called human rights.
    They are trying to divide that nations ethnic groups. The taste is still there. They still have a queen. They know nothing about social justice.
    They some how  get Our nation involved in the wars they engineer.

  • Elizabeth Regina

    Many Brits have boasted that they did and they do all what they do- including Boston brakes and Diana etc- they do in “claass” and in a gentlemanly way.
    Mafia  still  has to learn a lot from those Brits.

    Look at the way they are taking revenge from Kadafi while going to bed with Saudi kings.
    You guys probably have forgotten Kadafi the libiyan guy once sent a marriage prposal to Anne the daughter of curren queen.

    Now I am scared , I will have to advice Mr.GHOSH to be awre of Boston breaks.
    You can’t afford piss off the HMG.

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  • Harriet7297

    “On Point” never fails to be worth hearing, but this program was exceptional. As soon as Tom signed off I went to Amazon.com and ordered both books. I’ve just finished “Sea of Poppies” and begun “River of Smoke.” I can only describe Mr. Ghosh’s writing as masterful, as the book was at once uplifitng, enlightening, excruciatingly painful, and “poetic.” He brought home a very human perspective on the pain and injustice of British Colonial activity in India as tied to the opium trade. Such a travesty! Thank God for Ghandi, and thanks, Mr. Ghosh for your soulful presentation of this horrible period in your country’s history.   

  • Soesdkeoqlorr

    Im one who is firmly in favour of clear and transparent information BOSTON PUBLIC DVD. I would rather see the raw figure myself and believe i have the ability to interpret them myself CAROLINE IN THE CITY DVD. Far too often, data is “adapted” to suit a particular message or aim. I applaud the prime minister for having the openness to reveal this to us all.

Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s leader meet. We’ll look at Russia and the high voltage chess game over Ukraine. Plus, we look at potential US military strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Aug 27, 2014
The cast of the new ABC comedy, "Black-ish." (Courtesy ABC)

This week the Emmys celebrate the best in television. We’ll look at what’s ahead for the Fall TV season.

Aug 26, 2014
Matthew Triska, 13, center, helps Alex Fester, 10, to build code using an iPad at a youth workshop at the Apple store on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Stanford, Calif.  (AP)

Educational apps are all over these days. How are they working for the education of our children? Plus: why our kids need more sleep.

Aug 26, 2014
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, right, speaks with Ady Barkan of the Center for Popular Democracy as she arrives for a dinner during the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.  (AP)

Multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer says he and his fellow super-rich are killing the goose–the American middle class — that lays the golden eggs.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

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1 Comment
Why Facebook And Twitter Had Different Priorities This Week
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

There’s no hidden agenda to the difference between most people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds this week. Just a hidden type of emotional content and case use. Digiday’s John McDermott explains.

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Our Week In The Web: August 22, 2014
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

On mixed media messaging, Spotify serendipity and a view of Earth from the International Space Station.

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