Smoke And Ashes – Amitav Ghosh

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Description

When Amitav Ghosh began the research for his monumental cycle of novels the Ibis trilogy ten years ago, he was startled to learn how the lives of the nineteenth-century sailors and soldiers he wrote about were dictated not only by the currents of the Indian Ocean but also by the precious commodity carried in enormous quantities on those currents: opium. Most surprising of all, however, was the discovery that his own identity and family history were swept up in the story.

Smoke and Ashes
 is at once a travelogue, a memoir, and an essay in history, drawing on decades of archival research. In it, Ghosh traces the transformative effect the opium trade had on Britain, India, and China, as well as the world at large. The trade was engineered by the British Empire, which exported Indian opium to sell to China to redress their great trade imbalance, and its revenues were essential to the empire’s financial survival. Tracing the profits further, Ghosh finds opium at the origins of some of the world’s biggest corporations, of America’s most powerful families and prestigious institutions (from the Astors and Coolidges to the Ivy League), and of contemporary globalism itself.

Moving deftly between horticultural histories, the mythologies of capitalism, and the social and cultural repercussions of colonialism, in Smoke and Ashes Amitav Ghosh reveals the role that one small plant had in making our world, now teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

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