China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980

Sources from the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library, London

Discover over 200 years of Chinese history, charting the monumental social and political upheaval that recreated China as a modern power.

With documents encompassing events from the earliest English embassy to the birth and early years of the People’s Republic, this resource collects sources from nine archives to give an incredible insight into the changes in China during this period.

Key documents relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs service – from Robert Hart to Frederick Maze – are accessible and searchable alongside original reports of the Amherst and Macartney embassies. There are letters relating to the first Opium War, survivors’ descriptions of the Boxer War and tantalising glimpses of life in China from the collected diaries and personal photographs of the Bowra family. Significant sources describing the lives and work of missionaries in China from 1869-1970, including extensive and fully searchable runs of missionary periodicals are also featured.

We cannot understand the contemporary world unless we understand China, and we cannot understand contemporary China unless we understand its past
Professor Robert Bickers, University of Bristol

Key Data

Period Covered

  • Late 18th to late 20th century


  • Substantial papers of Bowra, Hart, Maze and others in the Chinese Maritime Customs service
  • Records of major diplomatic envoys to China ranging from the late 18th and early 19th century missions of Macartney and Amherst to those of Nixon and Heath in the 20th century
  • Papers of missionaries active in all regions of China from Canton and Macau to Shanghai and Peking and an extensive run of the Chinese Recorder, 1867-1941
  • Full text search across printed and typescript documents
  • An array of maps, colour paintings, photographs and drawings alongside interactive mapping tools

Source Archives

  • Cambridge University Library
  • Council for World Missions Library
  • The British Library, London
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The School of Oriental and African Studies, London
  • Yale Divinity Library

Material Types

  • Correspondence
  • Illustrations
  • Maps
  • Official Papers
  • Periodicals
  • Personal accounts
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Printed books

Editorial Board

  • Robert Bickers, Bristol University
  • Richard Horowitz, California State University, Northridge
  • Wong Man Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University


  • Macartney Embassy, 1792-1794
  • Amherst Embassy, 1816
  • Settling of Penang
  • Opium Wars
  • Opening of Hong Kong
  • Taiping Rebellion
  • Missions in China, 1869-1970
  • Japanese seizure of Taiwan
  • Opening of Korea
  • Territorial struggles with Germany, Britain, America and Japan
  • The Boxer War
  • Russo-Japanese War
  • The 1911 Revolution
  • Governments of Sun Yat sen and Jiang Jieshi
  • The ‘Warlord Period’
  • Sino-Japanese war
  • The Rape of Nanjing
  • The Communist Revolution led by Mao Zedong
  • The Korean War
  • The Great Leap Forward
  • President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China
  • Rolls-Royce's negotiations regarding the delivery of jet engines to China, 1973-1975
  • The Douglas-Home and Heath visits to China, 1973-74

Key Features

  • English-language sources relating to China and the West
  • Extensive runs of ‘The Chinese Recorder’, ‘Light and Life Magazine’ and ‘The Land of Sinim: the North China Mission Quarterly Paper’
  • 400 colour paintings, maps and drawings
  • Map Gallery
  • Image Slideshow
  • Biographies (courtesy of Dr Catherine Ladds, University of Bristol)
  • Contextual Essays