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Hao Gao

The Amherst embassy to China (1816–17) is a critical but under-researched event in the history of British–Chinese relations. Dispatched twenty-two years after the Macartney embassy, it was Britain's second formal attempt to improve its commercial and diplomatic relations with China. Compared to Macartney's embassy, which was at least given the opportunity to meet the Qianlong emperor, the Amherst mission is traditionally regarded as more fruitless than the former. This is mainly because Lord Amherst did not even achieve an audience with the

in Creating the Opium War
British imperial attitudes towards China, 1792–1840
Author: Hao Gao

This book examines British imperial attitudes towards China during their early encounters from 1792 to 1840. It makes the first attempt to bring together the political history of Sino-Western relations and cultural studies of British representations of China, as a new way of understanding the origins of the Opium War – a deeply consequential event which arguably reshaped relations between China and the West for the next hundred years. The book focuses on the crucial half-century before the war, a medium-term (moyenne durée) period which scholars such as Kitson and Markley have recently compared in importance to that of the American and French Revolutions.

This study investigates a range of Sino-British political moments of connection, from the Macartney embassy (1792–94), through the Amherst embassy (1816–17) to the Napier incident (1834) and the lead-up to the opium crisis (1839–40). It examines a wealth of primary materials, some of which have not received sufficient attention before, focusing on the perceptions formed by those who had first-hand experience of China or possessed political influence in Britain. The book shows that through this period Britain produced increasingly hostile feelings towards China, but at the same time British opinion formers and decision-makers disagreed with each other on fundamental matters such as whether to adopt a pacific or aggressive policy towards the Qing and the disposition of the Chinese emperor. This study, in the end, reveals how the idea of war against the Chinese empire was created on the basis of these developing imperial attitudes.

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British accounts from pre-Opium War Canton
John M. Carroll

view of the interior’. From here, the first place British residents took their visitors, one could behold ‘a highly fertile country, laid out in patches of luxuriant vegetation, interspersed with hills and mountains of every tint, and watered by a thousand silvery streams alive with human beings’. According to Downing, the members of the Amherst embassy, who had travelled for more than one thousand

in The cultural construction of the British world
Damian Walford Davies

China as a topos. There are, it is true, substantial and still unexplored writings about China in the period, many deriving from or relating to the first two Royal British embassies to Beijing – those of Macartney in 1793 and Amherst in 1816. There are also a number of popular dramas and pantomimes exploiting Chinese subjects, though fewer than one might expect given the interest in China inspired by the Macartney and Amherst embassies and the inclusion of Chinese characters and narratives (such as ‘Aladdin’) in The Thousand and One Nights and its various imitators.31

in Counterfactual Romanticism
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Hao Gao

Markley have recently compared in importance with that of American and French Revolutions and the Napoleonic Wars. 31 This period produced a range of Sino-British political moments of connection, from the Macartney embassy (1792–4), through the Amherst embassy (1816–17) to the Napier incident (1834) and the lead-up to the opium crisis (1839–40). To grasp more fully how the idea of war against China developed as a result of changing attitudes, this book focuses on the perceptions formed by those who had first

in Creating the Opium War
Hao Gao

The East India Company Act of 1813 not only led to the dispatch of the Amherst embassy but initiated significant changes in Britain's contacts with Asia. Although the Act renewed the EIC's charter for another twenty years, it ended the Company's commercial monopoly in India but not the tea trade and trade with China. This partial opening of the Indian trade led an increasing number of British private merchants to establish themselves in India. Unprecedentedly close to the Chinese market, many of them were keen to have access to the China trade

in Creating the Opium War
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Hao Gao

before their Government? The records show nothing but subsequent humiliation and disgrace. What advantage or what point, again, have we ever lost, that was just and reasonable, by acting with promptitude and vigour? 11 These lines are obviously similar to the hardline attitude that had evolved after the Amherst embassy, but what is also clear is that Napier did not simply inherit all his views of

in Creating the Opium War
Zheng Yangwen

, on his part, entertained sentiments of the same kind towards the Sovereign of Great Britain, and hoped that harmony should always be maintained among their respective subjects’. 8 Despite being refused the audience, the Amherst embassy was not a failure because the information they gathered about China, from its growing opium consumption to its coastal geography and poor defence, would serve the British expedition during the First Opium War. Anglo-Chinese trade increased dramatically through the 1820s until 1834, when the British government, committed to

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History