Let’s smash China

by Instant Noodle

This is from the aftermath of the Second Opium war, between Britain and China. Later, the French joined in.

It’s rather pot luck whether we are with the French or against them during this period – it can flip from year to year – but in this case we were fighting together against a common enemy. China. Or more specifically, their monopoly on the Opium trade.

Needless to say that Britain “won” the war. As always, there was the struggles associated with any overseas war and, as always, we left a legacy of cultural destruction.

The name of Elgin crops up here. This is actually the heir of the Elgin of the marbles fame; another gentleman guilty of cultural vandalism.  Let’s just say it runs in the family.

In perhaps one of the pettiest moves in history, after British prisoners were treated badly, with some killed, Elgin ordered the destruction of the Summer Palaces, purely as revenge. These are the ruins, as they stand today.

Sometimes whilst reading these things I feel like Britain owes a big apology to the myriad countries whose heritage we ransacked. It’s hard not to cringe wandering through the British Museum, for instance. Yes, it is good that these artefacts are safe in the UK and they are where they can be seen by the most people and studied by the most researchers. But you can’t take away a country’s pride.

However in this case, we can at least be thankful for one thing. Elgin’s original suggestion was to actually to burn down the Forbidden City instead.

(22nd December 1860)