The Rise and Fall of Chinese Indentured Labour

Chinese Coolies and Overseers

|By Winnie Fok, Assistant Editor, Gale Asia|

Please be aware that this blog post contains language that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion.

“Coolies” (a historical term for indentured workers) are a relic of the past, no longer around today. This blog post captures the fascinating and tumultuous history of the coolie trade in brief, through the valuable primary source materials found in China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 1, 1815–1881 and China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 2, 1865–1905.

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The Bowring Treaty and the Opening up of Thailand

Map of Siam

│Liping Yang, Senior Manager, Academic Publishing, Gale Asia│

Siam (now known as Thailand) had long been a tribute nation of China’s Qing empire. However, the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Great Britain and Siam in 1855 opened a new chapter in the history of this Southeast Asian nation and its relationship with China and Western powers represented by Britain. This blog post retells the interesting stories behind the signing of this historic treaty through some invaluable primary source materials discovered in China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 1, 1815-1881

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The Murder of Empress Myeongseong of Korea

Kind and Queen of Corea

│By Emery Pan, Associate Development Editor│

In 2001, the Korean television series Empress Myeongseong became a massive hit in many Asian countries. Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min [闵妃], was the wife of Gojong [高宗], the ruler of Korea from 1864 to 1907. Her real life, explored below using primary sources from the Gale archive China and the Modern World, was actually far more complicated and bloody than it appeared in the historical drama.

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Rediscovering China and the World in the Nineteenth Century, Part II

China and the Modern World
Learn more about China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part II, 1865–1905 in this blog post – or register below for a live webinar!

|By Liping Yang, Publishing Manager, Digital Archive and eReference, Gale Asia|

Gale has recently released China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part II, 1865–1905. Consisting of volumes 873–1768 in the highly acclaimed FO 17 series of British foreign office files plus seven volumes of Law Officers’ reports relating to China from FO 83, Part II covers the latter half of the nineteenth century (see my first blog post about this module – Rediscovering China and the World in the Nineteenth Century for the main topics covered in Part I). The complete Imperial China and the West provides a vast and significant primary source archive for researching every aspect of Chinese-Western relations from 1815 to 1905.

Here, with the help of Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology, researchers will be able to conduct full-text searches across more than one million pages of manuscripts relating to the internal politics of China and Britain, their relationship, and the relationships among Britain and other Western powers—keen to benefit from the growing trading ports of the Far East—and China’s neighbours in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Imperial China covers a wide range of topics including diplomacy and war, trade, piracy, riots and rebellions, treaty ports, Chinese emigration, and railway building. In this blog post I’ll walk you through some of the fascinating topics and themes covered in the approximately 600,000 pages of manuscripts included in Part II.

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Early Twentieth-Century Explorers in Inland Asia

Left: Kozui Otani, October 1913, Right: Sven Hedin, 31 May 1889

|By Tetsuhiko Mizoguchi, Senior Marketing Executive, Gale Japan|

If you have been to Kyoto in Japan, you might have dropped in at the temple of Nishi Honganji. As the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist sect, it attracts many tourists and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Even if you stopped by at the temple, however, you might not know that it plays a fascinating part in the history of archaeological expeditions of Central Asia. Kozui Otani was the twenty-second abbot of Nishi Honganji temple. He also led exploratory expeditions, and came to exchange letters with Sven Hedin, a famous Swedish explorer, who even visited the Nishi Honganji temple during his trip to Japan.

Digging through Gale’s digital archive China and the Modern World: Diplomacy and Political Secrets, I found that the India Office Records covered not only diplomats and soldiers, but also explorers like Otani, Hedin and many others. Why? Central Asia, where these explorers were operating, was also the stage on which Western countries played an intelligence war called the “Great Game”. This blog post attempts to shed light on the involvement – or entanglement – of explorers in the Great Game, through the example of Otani and Hedin.

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The History of Extradition in Hong Kong

Victoria City, Hong Kong, circa 1920.

|By Winnie Fok, Assistant Editor, Gale Asia|

In February 2019, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government proposed a bill regarding extradition, to establish a mechanism for the transfer of fugitives to Mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau, which are currently excluded in the existing laws. The bill sparked fears over a potential loss of freedom and deterioration of the business climate in Hong Kong. As a result, protests erupted over the next few months, and lasted till early 2020. Extradition has a long and complex history in Hong Kong, owing in no small part to its colonial background. China and the Modern World: Hong Kong, Britain and China 1841–1951, a collection of rare historical materials from the British Colonial Office records, sheds light on this fascinating subject.

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Simla, McMahon, and the Origins of Sino-Indian Border Disputes

McMahon Line

|By Liping Yang, Publishing Manager, Digital Archive and eReference, Gale Asia|

From May 2020 to February 2021, Chinese and Indian border troops engaged in melee, face-offs, and skirmishes along the Sino-Indian border near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, as well as near the border between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region. This series of disputes has resulted in numerous casualties, attracting worldwide attention in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such border disputes are nothing new. Three years prior to this in June 2017, the troops of the two countries had a border standoff in Doklam, a strategic location near a trijunction border area involving China, India, and Bhutan. Actually, China and India even went to war between October–November 1962 over their disputed Himalayan border.

Many of these border disputes and clashes can be attributed to the controversial McMahon Line. What is this line? And how did it come about? We can find some illuminating historical records on this in China and the Modern World: Diplomacy and Political Secrets, 1868-1950, a collection of rare historical materials selected from the India Office Records now held at the British Library.

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Indentured Indian Workers and Anti-Colonial Resistance in the British Empire

South Asian workers preparing rice in Jamaica, 1895

│By Dr Lucy Dow, Gale Content Researcher│

Please be aware that this blog post contains language that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion.

On May 30, 1845 the first ship carrying indentured Indian immigrants arrived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad from Kolkata (Calcutta). This day is now commemorated in Trinidad as “Indian Arrival Day”. In this article I will use Gale Primary Sources to explore the history of Indian indenture and the South Asian community in the Caribbean, and elsewhere. In doing so, I will highlight how Gale Primary Sources can be used to better understand the role of the British Empire in moving people around the globe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the inter-connectedness of anti-colonial movements across the British Empire.

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Sun Yat-sen and the Kwangtung–Kwangsi Conflicts in the 1920s

A historic map of southern China, plus four images of individuals whose images are found throughout this blog post

│By Emery Pan, Gale Editor in Beijing│

A land plagued with poverty and political instability, China in the early twentieth century experienced the most drastic changes that had ever taken place in the country. This blog post explores this turbulent period in the history of China using primary sources from numerous Gale archives, including the China and the Modern World series.

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Rediscovering China and the World in the Nineteenth Century

Anson Burlingame and relevant handwritten letters

│By Liping Yang, Publishing Manager, Digital Archive and eReference, Gale Asia│

US–China relations have been somewhat strained in recent years – a situation that may not be easily resolved by Joe Biden’s administration. This difficult period in the history of American and Chinese relations started when the US raised tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering China to impose retaliatory tariffs on US products. This trade conflict later escalated into a confrontation on many fronts, including technology. Many people have been racking their brains about how to ease the tensions. We can draw inspiration from the past by examining interesting historical records which show positive diplomatic relations between the two nations. Many such records are included in Gale’s digital archive collection China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 1, 1815-1881.

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