Chinese history for English readers is a quietly contested field: quiet because discussion and developments take place in the margins of the English-speaking world; and contested both because the market for trade books is growing and, more importantly, because new publications are offering ever more diverse and complex ways of seeing China. Two seminal events, the Opium War (1839-42) and the Cu
It is possible to talk today of a ‘public obsession with the Second World War’.(1) The preoccupation is one that generates lively academic debate. Yet bizarre though it may now seem, in 1950—just five years after the surrender of Germany and Japan—it was possible to write off the Second World War as ‘already but a memory’. (2)
People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.
Jonathan Scott, Professor of History at the University of Auckland, in his recent book, How the Old World Ended (2019), has provided an intellectual bridge between the early modern period and the modern world, which was born out of the Industrial Revolution.
Jessica Hanser, in her book Mr. Smith Goes to China, tells a tale of 18th-century globalisation involving three international actors–Britain, China and India–through the lives of three British (more precisely, Scottish) merchants. All of them bore the name of George Smith, an extremely common name at the time. And all of them were ‘private traders’” (i.e.