China in Britain: 1760 to 1860
2016 marks the bicentenary of Lord Amherst’s embassy to China. This episode of history seems to have been largely forgotten by historians of Britain and China, and has generated little scholarship. But the embassy is important because the delegates saw – in their eyes - a different China to that which had been described before: “Dirt, squalidness, and extreme poverty were as usual their leading characteristics. Their inhabitations were miserable beyond anything which England can exemplify … they looked more like the dens of beasts than the habitations of men” (Clarke Abel, 1819). The British were changing their opinion about, and soon their policy towards, the Middle Kingdom. Chinoiserie would soon lead to the “scramble for China”. Although historians have studied “Britain in China”, they have largely ignored China in Britain after the heyday of eighteenth century Sinophilia, and before the darker turn in relations in the mid-nineteenth century. Tea gave rise to and also saw the decline of the Honourable Company. What is the social life of tea in the United Kingdom? How did increasing dependence on the China trade and the ascend of the “private English” lead to a change in public opinion and ultimately policy? What does this change tell us about British polity and society? We welcome historians/scholars of Britain and China to a debate that addresses the following issues in an effort to promote Anglo-Chinese, some might say Sino-British, studies.
1. Chinoiserie and allure of the Middle Kingdom in Britain
2. China trade and its impact on British economy and society
3. Changing public opinion about and policy towards China
4. Individuals and institutions that emerged during the change
Inquiries and abstracts of no more than 150 words and 5 lines of biographical information should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org before 30 January 2016. Those accepted to present at the conference will be notified by 29 February. Accommodation and food will be provided during the conference. There is a modest budget for travel but priority will be given to PhD students.
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