The Macartney embassy
in Creating the Opium War
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This chapter explores some important but understudied aspects of the Macartney diplomatic mission to China. Unlike previous research that focused on the controversy of kowtow or the embassy’s political implications, this chapter investigates the underlying contention among the embassy members on the transactions and outcome of the mission. By comparing accounts left by different orders of men who took part in the embassy, it shows that some key facts were selectively documented or ignored, particularly by the leaders of the embassy, in order to suit the author’s own needs and prejudices. Although it is understandable that all observers have their own perspectives, it is worth noting that some of the key perceptions of the embassy’s members were at least partly constructed to justify certain standpoints and actions of the authors of them, rather than being entirely objective observations as they might appeared to be.

Creating the Opium War

British imperial attitudes towards China, 1792–1840

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