Hans Derks has attempted a herculean task in seeking to analyze the many facets of what he terms the problem of opium (as opposed to the history of the drug) from 1660 to 1950 in East, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as in Europe and the Americas, and his ability to synthesize a massive amount of material is impressive. That said, the subject of opium is rarely approached in a subjective manner, and as the subtitle indicates, this volume is no exception. Derks states unequivocally at the outset that the opium trade was a form of enslavement perpetrated deliberately by imperialist nations. Although the author's analysis takes the form of a lively and readable tale of perpetrators and victims, his insistence on assigning blame detracts from his narrative.

Divided into seven parts, with part one outlining “The Opium Problem,” the five main sections of the book discuss, in turn:...

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