rom its rise in the 1830s, to its pinnacle in the 1930s, the opium trade was a guiding force in the Chinese political economy. Opium money was inextricably bound up in local, national, and imperial finances, and the people who piloted the trade were integral to the fabric of Chinese society. In this book, Peter Thilly narrates the dangerous lives and shrewd business operations of opium traffickers in southeast China, situating them within a global history of capitalism. By tracing the evolution of the opium trade from clandestine offshore agreements in the 1830s, to multi-million dollar “Prohibition Bureau” contracts in the 1930s, Thilly demonstrates how the modernizing Chinese state was infiltrated, manipulated, and profoundly transformed by opium profiteers.
Opium merchants carried the drug by sea, over mountains, and up rivers, with leading traders establishing monopolies over trade routes and territories, and assembling “opium armies” to protect their businesses. Over time, and as their ranks grew, these organizations became more bureaucratized and militarized, mimicking—and then eventually influencing, infiltrating, or supplanting—the state. Through the chaos of revolution, warlordism, and foreign invasion, opium traders diligently expanded their power through corruption, bribery, and direct collaboration with the state. Drug traders mattered—not only in the seedy ways in which they have been caricatured, but crucially as shadowy architects of statecraft and China’s evolution on the world stage.
Peter Thilly，卫斯理大学（Wesleyan University）东亚研究学士（2004）、芝加哥大学（University of Chicago）社会科学硕士（2007）、西北大学（Northwestern University）历史学博士（2015），师从麦柯丽（Melissa Macauley），博士论文题目为Treacherous waters: Drug smuggling in coastal Fujian, 1832-1938。曾任中国人民大学清史研究所高级访问学者（2012-2013）。现任密西西比大学（University of Mississippi）的历史系助理教授。主要研究领域为帝国晚期与中国近代史（19-20世纪）、东亚和东南亚的历史、全球资本主义、海洋和跨国史、犯罪与法律文化、帝国与外交史。曾在Late Imperial China、East AsianHistory and Culture Review等刊物发表Opium and the Origins of Treason in Modern China: The View from Fujian、The Fujitsuru Mystery: Translocal Xiamen, Japanese Expansionism, and the Asian Cocaine Trade, 1900-1937。