British ships and West China, 1875-1941: With special reference to the Upper Yangtze.

Blue, Archibald Duncan (1978). British ships and West China, 1875-1941: With special reference to the Upper Yangtze. BPhil thesis The Open University.



This dissertation describes the activities of British ships in west China, especially on the Upper Yangtze, in the first forty years of this century. The beginning of this period coincided with the high water mark of imperialism, and its close with the decline of imperialism in most parts of the world. This was probably more clearly illustrated in west China than in any other part of the world, and this was one main area of Anglo-French colonial rivalry. It is difficult today to realise that as late as 1940, Britain was still pursuing an expansionist policy here, and inducing a China, hard pressed by Japanese aggression, to cede tracts of territory on her far western border to Burma.

The contribution of British shipping to the country's prestige and prosperity is insufficiently appreciated. On the Upper Yangtze and on the West River, British ships were trading in comparatively unknown parts of the world, yet in parts with a much longer history than western Europe. The war brought west China into international prominence, and hastened its economic development. British people can look back with some pride on the part their merchants and sailors played in the early stages of this development. It was an historic anachronism, that British ships were trading 1,400 miles from the sea in a foreign country as late as 1940, as long before then the rights of cabotage had been abolished in almost every other part of the world.

I have attempted to describe the operations of these British ships against the international political situation in the Far East. To some extent this was reflected in rivalry in shipping on the Yangtze, and coincided with the rise of Japan as a world power, and the growth of nationalism and communism in China

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