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Empires

In what’s been called the greatest crime of the 19th century, immense fortunes were made when the British Empire forced China’s Imperial Dynasty to its knees over the right to trade an illegal substance that millions of Chinese were becoming addicted to: the ’foreign mud’ known as Opium.

Characters

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Harriett Low

Harriett Low

The independent, self described spinster at 24, Harriett was a darling of the social set. She kept a secret diary of her observations.

William Jardine

William Jardine

The original Tai-Pan was the leader and master mind of the pro war party in order to open more ports to the opium trade. Nicknamed the "The Hard Headed Rat" by the Chinese, Jardine became fabulously wealthy from the trade.

Howqua

Howqua

The leader of the Chinese co-hong (traders) he was esteemed and respected by the foreign traders. He was also the richest man in the world.

Warren Delano

Warren Delano

The head of Russell & Co and the American counsel, Warren Delano lead the anti-war party. But he was opportunistic enough to buy and ship tea to the British ships charging exorbitant rates and sold warships and munitions to the Chinese.

George Chinnery

George Chinnery

A painter, Chinnery was a hard drinking picturesque character who always stayed one country ahead of his wife.

Lin Zexu

Lin Zexu

Nickname "Blue Sky" for his incorruptibility, he lead the effect to stamp out the opium trade through interdiction, punishment and rehabilitation. Underestimating the British military strengths, he was blamed for British successes and exiled. Later he was elevated into the status of a national hero.

More about Empires

Empires, a ten-episode international television series takes our viewer into the heart of how Britain, the world’s largest free-trade empire came to clash with a decaying Middle Kingdom that for previous 2000 years was all-powerful, yet insular and technologically backwards. Taking advantage of Peking’s eroding rule, British traders flocked to China with missionary zeal and imposed their desire to trade opium from their Indian colonies in exchange for silk, tea and silver. As the trade imbalance exploded and China’s silver coffers drained, the Imperial Emperor tried to suspend the trade, but the superior British naval and army forces responded by force and full-scale armed conflict quickly followed. The first of the Opium Wars had started, along with the Chinese century of humiliation.