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Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries and Diplomats, 1792-1987

Part 9: The Addis and Geller Collections from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London

China Through Western Eyes offers the diaries, journals, letters, photographs and scrapbooks of a host of western businessmen, tourists, missionaries, journalists and diplomats from the first British mission to China in 1792-1794, through the Opium wars, the Boxer uprising, wars with Russia and Japan, the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty, the Second World War, the Communist Revolution - all the way to the thawing of East-West relations in the 1970s and 1980s.

So far, we have featured collections of material from Duke University, Yale Divinity Library, The National Archives at Kew, the State Library of New South Wales and the National Library of New Zealand. This ninth part makes available two collections from the holdings of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Charles Stewart Addis (1861-1945) was born in Edinburgh in 1861 and worked for a grain importers in Leith from 1876 to 1880. In 1880 he joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in London. In 1883 he was posted to Singapore, then to the HSBC head office in Hong Kong. In 1886 he became one of the first western bankers to reside in Peking, when he was posted there as Acting Agent. During this time, he also began his experience as a writer when he was invited to contribute material to the Chinese Times by its editor, Alexander Michie. After Peking, Addis undertook assignments in Tientsin (1889), Shanghai (1889-1891), Calcutta (1891) and Rangoon (1892). While on home leave in 1894 Addis met and married Eba McIsaac, the daughter of the Provost of Saltcoats, a small town in Scotland. They were to have thirteen children.

Following his marriage, Addis was posted to Shanghai. He was appointed Agent in Hankow (1896), Calcutta (1897), and served as Sub Manager in Shanghai (1898 and 1900). In 1905, he was appointed to the HSBC London Office as Junior Manager and also to the Board of Directors of the British and Chinese Corporation and the Chinese Central Railways. In 1908, he received his first official government appointment as British Censor of the State Bank of Morocco, a post he held until 1944. In 1911 he was appointed Senior Manager of the HSBC London Office. From 1912, he began his work to bring competing national banking syndicates together to form the Six Power China Consortium, transforming the policy of competition for loans to one of co-operation. The height of the Consortium's success came in 1913 when it issued a Reorganisation Loan to Yuan Shih-Kai's Republican Government. The British Government awarded Addis's efforts with a knighthood in that year. In 1917 he was appointed to the Cunliffe Committee on Currency and Foreign Exchanges After the War. In 1918 he became Director of the Bank of England, and in 1919 a member of the Bank's Committee of Treasury upon which the Governor of the Bank of England relied for advice. In that year he was also appointed to the Council of the Institute of Bankers and the India Currency Committee. In 1920, he served on the War Relief and China Famine Relief Committees, and visited New York to organise the Second China Consortium, which included banking groups from the USA, France, Japan and Great Britain. He was awarded a K.C.M.G. in 1921. In that year he retired as London Manager of the HSBC, but continued as Manager of the British Group of the China Consortium and Director on the Boards of the British and Chinese Corporation and the Chinese Central Railways. He was also elected President of the Institute of Bankers. In 1922, he was appointed Chairman of the London Committee of the HSBC, and attended the British Alternate Genoa Conference as the British financial expert. In 1923, he became Chairman of the Exchange Committee, Imperial Economic Conference. In 1924 he became a member of the Montagu Mission to Brazil; was appointed to the Colwyn Committee on National Debt and Taxation; gave evidence to the Chamberlain-Bradbury Committee and was appointed British representative on the General Council of the Reichsbank. In 1925, he served as a member of the China Advisory Committee, Boxer Indemnity, and in 1926, on the US Debt Committee. In 1929 he was the British Delegate on the Committee of Experts for Reparations in Paris. In 1930 he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements, and also attended meetings of the Cabinet Economic Advisory Sub-Committee on China.

He retired from the HSBC London Committee in 1933, and in the same year became a member of the Royal Commission on Canadian Banking. In 1944 he resigned as Manager of the British group of the China Consortium and from directorships of the British and Chinese Corporation and Chinese Central Railways. He died at Frant, Sussex on 14 December 1945.

During his life he kept a detailed 63 volume diary, which is now published for the first time.

Wilson Herbert Geller (1868-1949) was born in Thaxted in Essex in 1868. He grew up wanting to be a missionary and trained at Harley College. In 1897 he was appointed to Siaokan in Central China as Lay Evangelist for the London Missionary Society. In 1901 he married Mabel Love Neal, also of the London Missionary Society (she had been appointed to Canton in 1897), at Union Church, Hong Kong. His work was mainly pastoral and evangelistic and he practised in a large country district comprising about 25 churches. He played a large part in the production of a Chinese hymnbook, and composed many of the tunes. He also planned and built Siaokan Church. He retired in 1936, and died on 20 November 1949. Her chief work in China was building up a Bible school for women, as well as taking part in general work for women and girls at Siaokan Mission. She died on 17 December 1953.

They both kept detailed diaries and sixteen volumes remain: Diaries of Wilson Herbert Geller, 1901-1904, 1908, 1910-1914, 1930, and Mabel Love Geller, 1919, 1930-1934, documenting their life and work as missionaries in China.

There are descriptions of the voyage out; visits to Hankow and other cities; ‘lantern’ lectures; preachers’ meetings; evangelising to Mandarin women; the Hankow rebellion; Red Cross work; the abdication of the Emperor; a visit to Peking; school work; leaving China in 1934; and every day life in the mission field.

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