Jan 15, 2017

Opium Smuggling in Interwar Turkey and Beyond

Episode 293

hosted by Nir Shafir
featuring additional material by Samuel Dolbee

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The Opium Wars and the massive trade in opium between South Asia and China over the nineteenth century attest to the prominent role of opium within the history of colonialism and globalization. But it is less well known that in the early twentieth century, the Republic of Turkey became the largest exporter of opium in the world. In this episode we speak with Daniel-Joseph Macarthur-Seal about how and why opium became an export commodity in Turkey and how Turkish citizens smuggled the substance out once it became formally illegal. Along the way we gain a glimpse into the economic history of the young republic, the legal life of its citizens abroad, and how these smuggling operations built new forms of cosmopolitanism from the ground up as the Turkish republic became less and less accommodating for non-Muslims.