Meet the Author: The Chinese in Britain by Barclay Price

  • Date: Wednesday 20 March 2019
  • Venue: University of Leeds
  • Time: 5:30pm - 7:30pm
  • Categories: ,

Author Barclay Price brings to life the stories of Chinese people who have visited and settled in Britain throughout history, from the first recorded visitor in 1687 through to the present day.

Price’s book recounts a diversity of Chinese travellers; including seamen, students, cooks, brides, diplomats, jugglers, servants, sportsmen, bureaucrats, writers, curiosities and others. Through these lives the book explores a wide range of subjects, including the histories of Britain’s Chinatowns, the ways Chinese have been portrayed on stage and screen; the rise of Britain’s love affair with Chinese food; discrimination against Chinese; and China’s shifting diplomatic relationship with Britain.

For this talk Price will focus on a number of themes. These will include the early days of London’s Chinatown in Limehouse; early experiences of Chinese students in Britain, including Vivien Ernest Chang who studied medicine at Glasgow University in 1886 and became a doctor in Leeds; and some of the more unusual visitors, including the Chinese Jugglers who performed in Leeds in 1861.

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Newspaper advert for Chinese juggler performance

Newspaper advert for a performance featuring Chinese jugglers that took place in Leeds in 1861

More about the book

Today over 400,000 Chinese live in Britain, many more attend British universities, and an increasing number visit Britain on business and as tourists. But until now, there has been no comprehensive history of the Chinese who came to the country. This book tells that story, from the first recorded visitor in 1687 through to the twentieth century, drawing on accounts by visiting Chinese, newspaper articles, memoirs, royal diaries and other contemporary sources.

The book encompasses, among much else, the sailors who worked on British ships and briefly lodged in the country between voyages; the emergence of Chinatowns in London and Liverpool; servants; students; links to missionaries; Chinese entertainers; exhibitions relating to China; Chinese envoys and ambassadors; and British royalty’s engagement with visiting Chinese. The book also includes extended biographies of some of the most significant Chinese to settle in Britain, including the first such immigrant, who has been overlooked in the historical record.

The author also deals with the suspicion and prejudice that the Chinese have historically experienced due to their different physical appearance, dress and culture. At the same time, he shows the beneficial impacts Chinese visitors have had on British cultural life over three centuries. As China becomes a pre-eminent world power again in the twenty-first century, this book uncovers our long relationship with the country and its people.

The book was published on 15 January 2019 – find out more on the publisher’s website.

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