British-Chinese Relations in the Nineteenth Century and Alicia Bewicke Little's Novel, A Marriage in China

British-Chinese Relations in the Nineteenth Century and Alicia Bewicke Little's Novel, A Marriage in China

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British-Chinese Relations in the Nineteenth Century and Alicia Bewicke Little's Novel, A Marriage in China


The year was 1842, and Britain had just finished a successful military campaign in China, a campaign that also signified a rather humiliating defeat for the Chinese army. The first Opium War reestablished Britain's profitable opium trade routes from India to China, and also established a new mode of British-Chinese relations, one that resulted in British control of the new colony of Hong Kong and semicolonial control over various treaty ports. The progressive optimism that this combined political and economic control seemed to herald for the British Empire was reflected in a piece in the newly established Illustrated London News:

A large family of the human race, which for centuries has been isolated from the rest, is now about to enter with them into mutual intercourse. Vast hordes of populations, breaking through the ignorance and superstition which has for ages enveloped them, will now come out into the open day, and enjoy the freedom of a more expanded civilization, and enter upon prospects immeasurably grander. (Illustrated London News, qtd. in Thurin 1)

Voiced at mid-century, this statement paradoxically depicts the Chinese as both "enveloped" by backwardness, yet capable of reform and progress; as ignorant, superstitious, and characterized as pest-like "vast hordes of populations," yet also seen as equal partners with the British in a "mutual intercourse." This varied and contradictory opinion could just have easily been voiced at the end of the nineteenth century. In a way, this statement can be seen as representative of the history or, more accurately, the story of the relationship between ...


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...sm. Thus even areas of resistance are encoded within the text of compliance (Rule Britannia: Women, Empire, and Victorian Writing, Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995).

Works Cited

British Library Public Catalogue. 12 Oct 1999 .

Campbell, Mrs. J. Weston. (Signed C. de Thierry.) "The Sons of Han [Chinese Emigration]." Macmillan's Magazine. 80 (May 1899): 58-66.

Croll, Elisabeth J. Wise Daughters from Foreign Lands: European Women Writers in China. London: Pandora, 1989.

Little, Alicia Bewicke. A Marriage in China. London: F. V. White & Co., 1896.

Round about My Peking Garden. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1905.

"Mrs. A. Little." Obituary. The London Times. 6 Aug. 1926: 17e.

Research Library Group (RLG) Union Catalog (RLIN). 12 Oct 1999 .

Thurin, Susan Schoenbauer. Victorian Travelers and the Opening of China, 1842-1907. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 1999.

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