While the 20th century was one long war for control of the world's oil supplies, opium was a key strategic raw material during the four preceding centuries. Opium consumption dates back to Ancient Egypt. Initially a useful pharmaceutical product called laudanum; it quickly became popular in Britain. It then became the basis for trade with isolationist China as soon as the Opium Wars obtained trading rights for Western companies and the Chinese began smoking it in industrial quantities. This book offers a tastefully illustrated history of this toxic substance, its paraphernalia, and the era surrounding it.