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Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries & Diplomats

Part 1: Sources from the William R Perkins Library, Duke University

This project runs in parallel to Japan Through Western Eyes and offers the diaries, journals, letters, photographs and scrapbooks of a host of American and British businessmen, tourists, missionaries, journalists and diplomats from the first British mission to China in 1792-1794 to the onset of World War Two some 150 years later.

There are first hand records of events such as the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and the Foochow Rebellion of 1911. There is a History of Mission work in China and many manuscript accounts of individual missions. There are accounts of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and other Eastern religions.

There is much on trade, from the observations of members of the Macartney (1792-1794), Amherst (1816-1817) and Elgin (1844-1864) trade and diplomatic missions to China, as well as the records of individuals doing business in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

There is also a great deal concerning cultural and social history - from the selling of Chinese girls into slavery and the Coolie Trade, to observations of local life and customs and the role of ceremony.

Chinese-Japanese relations, politics and natural disasters are also documented and a number of scrapbooks and photographic albums offer a rich visual resource for this period.

Parts 1 and 2 are based on the holdings of Duke University and were facilitated by the appearance in 1993 of Kirsten Fischer - East Asia: A Selected Bibliography of Sources in the Special Collections Library of Duke University. All of the sources are in English and are published here for the fist time. They will be of great interest to scholars of East Asian Studies.

These first two parts cover 23 individual collections of papers ranging from the seven volume diary of an American missionary in Shanghai and Tung Chow, to the letters of Britain's first ambassador to China.
Wherever possible we have filmed the papers of these individuals in their entirety. In a few instances, where the original archive for an individual is huge and only a small section relates to China, we have chosen to select just the relevant boxes or folders in question. If so, any folder filmed is filmed in its entirety. The Contents of Reels explains where such choices have been made and gives a brief account of the each collection.

There is some overlap between regions covered. All of the individuals covered here include significant materials relating to China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. However, they may also include materials relating to Ceylon, India, Japan, Korea and other areas. Similarly, the papers of individuals covered in our companion project Japan Through Western Eyes may also include materials relating to China. However, there is no duplication of materials in these two projects.

Because the material is in English and the script is clear it will be possible to set students project assignments to look at the experiences of individuals living in or visiting China; and to make comparisons between those in different time periods, of different professions, or of different genders.

The project provides an opportunity for students to look at issues such as: the interaction between western industrialised countries and the 'ancient wisdom' of China; contrasts between life at the Imperial court and with the peasants in the provinces; and the lure of the vast expanses and bountiful population of China for western business from at least 1792 onwards.


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