New frontiers

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.

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