Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 April 2021
Patterns of opium production and distribution shifted immensely over the course of the twentieth century, with output falling by three-quarters, almost nine-tenths of which now takes place in Afghanistan. Supporters of drug prohibition trumpet the success of this long-term decline and hail the withdrawal of the four largest opium producers—India, China, Iran, and the Ottoman empire—from the non-medical market, but this seemingly linear trend conceals numerous deviations of historic significance. Among the most notable and little known is Turkey’s prolonged resistance to international restrictions on the narcotics trade and the efforts of state and non-state networks to substitute Turkish opium for the diminishing supply of once-dominant Indian exports to a still opium-hungry China in the first half of the twentieth century. This article uses neglected League of Nations and Turkish government sources alongside international newspapers and diplomatic reports to demonstrate the extent of connections forged by state and non-state actors between Turkey and East Asia, expanding on recent research on trans-Asian connections in commerce and political thought.