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 OpiumWar – 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
popular commodity by the eighteenth century. Eminent historian Maxine Berg has argued that ‘by 1760 a breakfast of toast and rolls and tea was entrenched in middling circles’. 3 This change in appetite was to have consequences beyond the breakfast table, as this commodity created a tie between Britain and the source of the drink – the Middle Kingdom. Lesson 1 tells the story of how Britain’s demand for tea led to two Anglo-Chinese conflicts in the name of opium. The OpiumWars heralded the beginning of a new era in Chinese history and since then they have never
that has challenged earlier studies. 4 We will also examine how the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion created strange alliances. The Qing court had to rely on Han Chinese regional resources and the foreigners who had just defeated them in the Second OpiumWar in order to suppress the Taiping and other rebellions. Times had indeed changed for the Qing.
The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace
Dynastic change, alien rule and economic hardship had pushed many Chinese in the coastal provinces to Southeast Asian countries like Malaya over the centuries
the British as Taku) Forts during the Second OpiumWar, which supplied the metal to be melted down and reformed into Victoria Crosses, the highest British military decoration for gallantry. 13 What better way to assert complete domination over an enemy in war? 14 Western inscriptions are also attached to Yuanmingyuan objects in order to underscore their military interpretations.
Yuanmingyuan objects on display in military museums may be conceptualised as trophies of war, a mode of collecting fundamentally characterised by power. As Hill argues, ‘trophies
of aggression toward China’ in 1834.
His argument, however, has not proved strong enough to remove the commonly held perception which regards the Napier affair as a prelude to the OpiumWar, or at least as an event which made that war more possible or ‘justifiable to the British public’.
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 particular, because of the neglect of the Amherst embassy, the Macartney embassy and the OpiumWar, 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 OpiumWar have found no strong links between the views