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Title: The British maritime public sphere in Canton, 1827-1839
Author: Chen, Song-Chuan
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This dissertation presents my research on the British community in Canton in the 1830s. I look into the British maritime public sphere in Canton, which was simultaneously based in the community and in the print media. The major source materials are English newspapers, journals, pamphlets, and Chinese magazines and treatises published by the British merchants and Protestant missionaries. As trade was confined to Canton and Christianity was theoretically banned, the merchants and missionaries were stirred up by the possibilities provided by the public sphere. They argued for opening up the whole of China for trade and for proselytising by soliciting the formal imperial power of Britain. Through public campaigns, pamphleteering, petitioning, and lobbying, they had their case heard in the British public sphere and reached the power centres of the Empire. The First Opium War (1839-1842) was underpinned by this process of mobilising the imperial power in the public sphere. I investigate the Canton System that confined the merchants and banned Christianity in China in the first place. I argue that the system was a device to shore up the Qing Empire in facing the encroachment of the British in Asia. By the very fact that this System restricted the westerners, it participated in the public sphere in Canton, because the majority of the arguments in the Canton British public sphere were aimed directly or indirectly at abolishing the Canton System. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in China was a creation enabled by the British public sphere in Canton. The Society’s objective was to spread knowledge about the west to the Chinese, in order to inform them of the truth about westerners in the hope that this in turn would lead to China being opened to them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available