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Jamie Banks

History PhD Candidate 

Supervisors and Institution(s): Clare Anderson (University of Leicester) and Anna Greenwood (University of Nottingham) 

Thesis Title: 'Up in Smoke': Opium and Indentured Labour in Mauritius, British Guiana, and Trinidad, 1834 - 1912. 

For the most part, historians have generally understood the British Empire's relationship with opium as manifest in the Anglo-Chinese opium trade. This project aims to challenge this commonly-held understanding of opium as, primarily, a South and South-East Asian concern; exploring the ways in which Chinese and Indian indentured labour resulted in the spread of opium-related problems to other parts of the British Empire. 

Focusing on the case studies of Mauritius, British Guiana, and Trinidad, this research considers the lifespan of opium in the sugar colonies of the British Empire. In particular, the project questions how opium use was first introduced to the sugar colonies; Colonial efforts to legislate opium use; the emergence of a retail and consumers market in opium; the social and criminal consequences of opium; and finally how opium consumption became subject to international measures enshrined by The Hague Opium Commission of 1912. In doing so, the intention of the project is to both chart the interlinking histories of opium and indentured labour and to explore how these experiences related to the wider, imperial efforts to control Asian opium use. 



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