This introductory chapter establishes the bureaucracy as a major player in the prohibition of opium in Southeast Asian colonial government. It argues that local administrators stationed in each colony are key to understanding when and how drug reforms were possible. Prohibition involved unraveling a state's deep-seated opium entanglements—a process enabled by a loss of confidence deep within the bureaucracy about the drug's contributions to colonial government. Local administrators played a pivotal role in constructing official problems, which internally eroded the legitimacy of opium's commercial life for European colonial states across Southeast Asia. From here, the chapter discusses the possible contributions such a study into bureaucracies and opium can make for scholarship, and also presents the method and sources underpinning this work.
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