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Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries & Diplomats, 1792-1942

Part 7: The Diaries of G E Morrison (1862-1920), Peking correspondent of The Times from 1897, and political advisor to the President of China, 1912-1920, from the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

This project offers the diaries, journals, letters, photographs and scrapbooks of a host of businessmen, tourists, scholars, missionaries, doctors, journalists and diplomats from the first British mission to China in 1792-1794 through to the mid 20th century.   All are in English and they are an ideal group of sources for student project work.

Part 7 covers the extensive diaries of George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920). This is the first time that they have been made widely available.

  • He first left Australia for Hong Kong in 1893, and the next year travelled from Shanghai to Rangoon, which he recorded in An Australian in China (1895).
  • A meeting with the editor of The Times led to his appointment as a secret correspondent in Siam. In 1897 he became resident correspondent in Peking.
  • He travelled widely through China in the next fifteen years, visiting every province. The diaries contain detailed accounts of his travels, meetings and experiences in China during the last years of the rule of the Ching dynasty.
  • Morrison was present in Peking during the Boxer Uprising and we include the articles as published in The Times from January to August 1900. 
  • He supported the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War, and reported their entry into Port Arthur in 1905.  He attended the Portsmouth conference.
  • In 1912 and became political adviser to Yuan Shih-K’ai, President of the recently declared Chinese Republic.  Morrison documents the politics of the Presidential court, the elimination of German possessions at the start of World War One and increasing pressure from Japan. 

These diaries are important not just because they offer an unusual insight into Chinese politics and life in the first two decades of the twentieth century. They offer information on the nature of Britain’s imperial reach at the periphery of formal power. This includes information on negotiations with local political leaders, on the use and abuse of economic and fiscal power, and the perception of gender and race. They illustrate the rising importance of journalists and the improvements in communications, both of information and of transport.

George Morrison


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