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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Researching the Impact of the New Silk Road on Kazakhstan

Illustration of what is believed to be the Polo family crossing the desert with a camel caravan from a 1375 atlas

|By Maryam Kurumbayeva, 11th Grade, Nazarbayev Intellectual School in Pavlodar| The Silk Road was a great trade network that once connected Eurаsia and North Аfrica. The name is a reference to Chinese silk, transported via this route, which was extremely valuable and expensive. This trading road played a vital role not only in the economic … Read more

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon: Exploring U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

On August 30, 2021, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. History rarely repeats, but it does rhyme. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the following airlift of allied personnel out of the city reminded me keenly of the Fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, to the North Vietnamese on May 30, 1975. The parallels between the ends of these armed conflicts seem endless and the images of desperate Afghans crowding the Kabul airport bring with them a sense of déjà vu. In this blog post I will showcase the usefulness of Gale’s US Declassified Documents Online archive and examine the trail of breadcrumbs left by declassified US documents dated shortly before the Fall of Saigon, during the Vietnam War. What was the US government focusing on? Who was President Gerald Ford writing to? What kinds of reports and memos were landing on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s desk?

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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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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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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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Ngiam Tong-Fatt’s Essays Provide Great Insight into Mid-Twentieth Century Southeast Asia

Map of the Malay Peninsula

│By Rebecca Chiew, Associate Editor with the Gale Asia Publishing Team

Ngiam Tong-fatt (嚴崇發 1917–?) was an overseas Chinese living in Singapore in the early and mid-twentieth century. He worked as a correspondent based in Singapore in the 1940s for The China Critic (中國評論週報, 1928–1946), a weekly periodical founded on May 31, 1928 by a group of Chinese intellectuals who had studied in the United States. Despite the editors’ avowed preference for “nonpolitical” discourse, The China Critic’s editorials and articles frequently discussed the presence of imperialism in Shanghai, debated the abolition of extraterritoriality, and advocated equal access to public facilities in the concessions. The editors also participated in wider-ranging discussions about urban affairs.

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