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.

Hao Gao

Lord Napier and most British observers in the mid-1830s could not have foreseen that a large-scale military conflict would break out between Britain and China within just a few years. As discussed in the Introduction, much has been written about this milestone in the history of Sino-Western encounters – the First Anglo-Chinese War, or the Opium War – but some important questions have escaped our close attention. When exactly did the war begin? Some maintain that it was in 1839; others believe that it began in 1840. What was the immediate

in Creating the Opium War
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Hao Gao

of aggression toward China’ in 1834. 3 His argument, however, has not proved strong enough to remove the commonly held perception which regards the Napier affair as a prelude to the Opium War, or at least as an event which made that war more possible or ‘justifiable to the British public’. 4 There are a number of reasons for this. First, historians who have written on this subject have concentrated either on the ‘Napier Fizzle’ itself or on the immediate causes of

in Creating the Opium War
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Hao Gao

information unexplored. 2 In particular, because of the neglect of the Amherst embassy, the Macartney embassy and the Opium War, the two events on which the historiography of early Sino-British relations primarily focuses, have tended to be regarded as two distinct and largely unrelated events. Since leaders of the Macartney embassy had considered it inappropriate to abandon the policy of currying favour with the Chinese emperor, historians analysing the origins of the Opium War have found no strong links between the views

in Creating the Opium War
Hao Gao

, Matheson & Co. during its smuggling of opium and to assist in the Sino-British negotiations during the Opium War. 55 Both Gützlaff and Lindsay published their reports of the reconnaissance shortly after the voyage. Together with articles written by Crawfurd and others, these publications, which were arguably results of a first-hand investigation, greatly challenged the EIC's assertion that China was so culturally different from Britain that the free trade principle was inapplicable in China. This point of view was

in Creating the Opium War
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Hao Gao

First Anglo-Chinese War (1840–2), popularly referred to as the ‘Opium War’. Although the conflict has been de-emphasised by some scholars as the dividing line between modern and premodern Chinese history, 1 it is still widely recognised as a deeply consequential event in the history of Sino-Western relations. The war not only substantially ‘opened up’ China to the West but also marked the beginning of a ‘century of humiliation’ for the Chinese. As such a defining moment, the Opium War has been much

in Creating the Opium War
Hao Gao

intercourse from the island of Hainan to the Gulf of Pei-chili [Bei-zhili]’. 123 Despite this seemingly belligerent statement, however, Macartney was by no means an advocate of war against China. Neither does it mean that from this time on ‘the era of the Opium War was imminent’. 124 In fact, in the same place where he made this statement, Macartney also solemnly reminded his readers of the devastating effects that a Sino-British war would have on Britain and its empire in

in Creating the Opium War
Author: Zheng Yangwen

Ten Lessons tells the story of modern China from the eve of the First Opium War to the Xi Jinping era. This was a most turbulent period of time as the Middle Kingdom was torn apart by opium, Christianity, modernisation, imperialists, nationalists, warlords and the Japanese, and as China reinvented and reasserted itself on the world stage in the post-Mao era. Unlike the handful of existing textbooks, which narrate without primary sources and without engaging with academic debate, Ten Lessons is devoted to students, from university to high school, as it uses extensive primary sources to tell the story of modern China and introduces them to scholarship and debates in the field of Chinese history and beyond. This will help students understand the real issues involved, navigate their way through the maze of existing literature and undertake independent research for essays and dissertations. The book also points out gaps and inadequacies in the existing scholarship, to encourage postgraduate studies. It is ‘mental furniture’ for the increasing army of journalists, NGO workers, diplomats, government officials, businesspeople and travellers of all kinds, who often need a good source of background information before they head to China.

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Imperialism's new communities in East Asia, 1842-1953

In the new world order mapped out by Japanese and Western imperialism in East Asia after the mid-nineteenth century opium wars, communities of merchants and settlers took root in China and Korea. New identities were constructed, new modes of collaboration formed and new boundaries between the indigenous and foreign communities were established. This book explores two themes at the heart of the colonial process: agency and identity. The agents of British empire in China included the usual suspects: Britons from the official and military castes, as well as Iraqi Jewish merchants, Parsis and Indian Jews, Eurasians, South East Asian Chinese. The reliance of colonial regimes on local middlemen has become an essential part of any explanation of colonialism, though it is only very recently that the model has been systematically applied to Hong Kong. The Daniel Richard Caldwell affair could hardly have broken out at a more difficult time for the young and problematic British colony at Hong Kong. The book defines the ambiguous positioning of the Baghdadis vis-a-vis the British, and shows that their marginality did not represent, as a whole, a significant hindrance to their sojourn in the Shanghai foreign settlements. In Shanghai the German community recognised the leading role which the Nazi party held and which everyone, even the other foreign communities, seemed to accept. The book also looks at the aspects of their economic, social and political life that Indians led in the colony of Hong Kong and in the Chinese treaty ports.

Zheng Yangwen

With the help of the Jesuits, the Qianlong emperor (often said to be Chinas Sun King in the long eighteenth century) built European palaces in the Garden of Perfect Brightness and commissioned a set of twenty images engraved on copper in Paris. The Second Anglo-Chinese Opium War in 1860 not only saw the destruction of the Garden, but also of the images, of which there are only a few left in the world. The John Rylands set contains a coloured image which raises even more questions about the construction of the palaces and the after-life of the images. How did it travel from Paris to Bejing, and from Belgium to the John Rylands Library? This article probes the fascinating history of this image. It highlights the importance of Europeans in the making of Chinese history and calls for studies of China in Europe.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library