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INFRASTRUCTURAL GLOBALIZATION: LIGHTING THE CHINA COAST, 1860s–1930s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2013

ROBERT BICKERS*
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
*
Department of History, University of Bristol, 11 Woodland Rd, Bristol, BS8 1TBrobert.bickers@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

This article calls for attention to be paid to the infrastructures that underpinned nineteenth-century globalization, and the use of better-known technological developments and global patterns of professional migration. It does so by outlining the work of the Marine Department of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service after 1868, focusing on its development of a network of lighthouses along the coast of China in its political and comparative contexts. These lights were at once local sites and nodes within a developing national and global system, and evolving practices around circulation of data and best practice, accepted international standards, technology transfer, and maritime safety. The Customs Service was a Chinese government agency, albeit within the British orbit of influence, but acted as a buffer between China and foreign interests and pressures.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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References

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18 Checkland, 'Richard Henry Brunton and the Japan lights, 1868–1876’, and Brunton, Building Japan.

19 Times, 1 Sept. 1906, p. 10.

20 QUB, MS 15/1/9, Hart journal, 31 Jan. 1867. This was later circulated as Appendix A in Circular No. 25/1870, 31 Dec. 1870, see Inspector general's circulars: first series: 1861–1875, pp. 325–30.

21 Article xxxii states that ‘The Consuls and Superintendents of Customs shall consult together regarding the erection of Beacons or Lighthouses, and the distribution of Buoys and Light-ships, as occasion may demand’; see also Wright, Hart and the Chinese Customs, p. 294. On the history of this revenue, see Stanley F. Wright, China's Customs revenue since the revolution of 1911 (3rd edn, revised … with the assistance of John H. Cubbon, Shanghai, 1935), pp. 34–7.

22 Banister, Coastwise lights of China, pp. 3–4.

23 QUB, MS 15/1/9, Hart journal, 1867: 19 Mar. (Burlingame), 19 Apr. (Hong Kong), 22 July (Zongli Yamen). He had already written to Forbes about his plans: 4 July.

24 QUB, MS 15/1/9, Hart journal, 12 July 1867.

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30 Defence: NCH, 31 Oct. 1868, p. 528.

31 Tonnage Dues Memo’, IG Circular No. 25, 1871, 31 Dec. 1870, in Inspector general's circulars: first series: 1861–1875.

32 NCH, 29 Dec. 1866, p. 207, 16, 30 May 1868, p. 247; petitions: NCH, Tianjin, 9 Dec. 1867, p. 401.

33 See, for example, comment from Niuzhuang after the lightship commenced operation: NCH, 23 Nov. 1867, p. 370.

34 The phrase was toned down when the 31 Jan. 1867 ‘Coast Light Memorandum’ was published as a circular: Inspector general's circulars: first series: 1861–1875, p. 327. It was, however, publicly known from the private circulation of the proposal: NCH, 22 Apr. 1869, p. 199, 17 June 1869, p. 315.

35 QUB, MS 15/1/9, Hart journal, 12 July 1867.

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38 Wright, Hart and the Chinese Customs, p. 298. On Forbes's varied life and experiences, see Documents illustrative of the origin, development and activities of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (7 vols., Shanghai, 1937–40), vii, p. 88.

39 One such return is in Tianjin No. 38, 15 Aug. 1867, Second Historical Archives of China (SHAC), 679(2), 1928.

40 There is no history of the firm, but see Chance, James Frederick, The lighthouse work of Sir James Chance, baronet (London, 1902)Google Scholar. Forbes resigned in Dec. 1870.

41 Wright, Hart and the Chinese Customs, p. 298. Wright's book was based on the Customs Archives, which he established in the 1930s, and contains a well-informed survey of the Marine Department's lights activities, pp. 295–304. L. Tweedie-Stodart, ‘Statement of training and experience’ (1906), Tweedie-Stodart papers, private collection.

42 The most notable Customs example was Sir Patrick Manson, who founded the discipline of tropical medicine, and who served as a Customs surgeon: Haynes, Douglas M., Imperial medicine: Patrick Manson and the conquest of tropical disease, 1844–1923 (Philadelphia, PA, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the issue of professional circulation, see Lambert, David and Lester, Alan, eds., Colonial lives across the British empire: imperial careering in the long nineteenth century (Cambridge, 2006)Google Scholar.

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44 The foreign inspectorate assessed duties payable, under Maritime Customs commissioners in each open port, and the parallel office of (Chinese) superintendent and his staff collected them. This division of responsibility underpinned the structure of the Service until 1912.

45 Progress can be followed through the pages of Notices to mariners: first issue, 1862–1882 (Shanghai, 1883). A detailed survey up to 1901 is J. Reginald Harding, ‘The Chinese Lighthouse Service’, reprinted in Documents illustrative of the origin, development and activities of the Chinese Customs Service, vi, pp. 637–60.

46 Orders 1–3 are coastline lenses, 4–6 harbour lights. On the Fresnel lens, see Elton, Julia, ‘A light to lighten our darkness: lighthouse optics and the later development of Fresnel's revolutionary refracting lens, 1780–1900’, International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology, 79 (2009), pp. 183244CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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57 ‘History of the Pingching’, in MacRobert to Sabel, 26 Mar. 1941, SHAC, 679(1) 684 eastern commander to coast inspector (CI), 1940–7.

58 Banister, Coastwise lights of China, pp. 15–16, 19.

59 Ibid., p. 15.

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67 Banister, Coastwise Lights of China, pp. 31–2. For more on Banister's volume, see below.

68 Ibid., pp. 57, 65, 150.

69 Ibid., p. xvii.

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72 ‘Inspection report by the engineer in chief on the southern lighthouses, October and November 1887’, SHAC 679(2), 66; Banister, Coastwise lights of China, pp. 94–7, 158.

73 ‘Report by the engineer-in-chief and coast inspector on the proposed lighthouse for Lao tai tou, Lao tieh Shan promontory, Kwantung peninsular’, 5 Aug. 1891, in SHAC 679(1), 1044.

74 Banister, Coastwise lights of China, p. 43.

75 SHAC, 679(1), 23820, ‘Wreck of German gunboat Iltis, 1896: questions concerning “Iltis cemetery” and visitors book presented to S. E. Promontory Light Station by the survivors, 1932–1937’.

76 20 Sept. 1904, 1 Dec. 1906, ‘Chaopeitsui Lighthouse visitors book, 1892–1936’, SHAC 679(1) 4173.

77 See, for example, ‘Report by the coast inspector and the engineer-in-chief on the proposed lighthouses and buoys for the Hainan Strait’, 2 Dec. 1890, SHAC, 679(1), 1044; Eldridge, T. J., Knots in a sailor's life (Bournemouth, 1937), pp. 117–19Google Scholar.

78 Summaries of the work were published annually in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society from at least 1878 to 1911. The 1878–9 report includes descriptive notes of Admiralty work in the Magellan Straits, Madagascar, Cyprus, China (Wenzhou approaches, Hong Kong to Shanghai seaboard, Hainan Straits), west coast of Japan, Jamaica, Australia, Fiji, as well as British waters: Evans, F. J. O., ‘Admiralty surveys for the year 1878–1879’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, 1, 6 (1879), pp. 369–72Google Scholar.

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82 Ibid., pp. 97–8.

83 This paragraph is mostly derived from a 1930 survey: ‘Coast inspector's comments on Kuan-wu Shu despatch No. 3, 530’, enclosed in CI S/O to IG No. 663, 13 Oct. 1930, SHAC: 679(1),3847.

84 Banister, Coastwise lights of China, p. 15; Eldridge, Knots in a sailor's life, p. 116. Tyler also left a memoir: Pulling strings in China (London, 1929).

85 Bickers, Scramble for China, pp. 272–4; Glen Dudbridge, ed., Aborigines of South Taiwan in the 1880s (Taibei, 1999).

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89 Statistical work: Eberhard-Bréard, Andrea, ‘Robert Hart and China's statistical revolution’, Modern Asian Studies, 40 (2006), pp. 605–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Lyons, China Maritime Customs and China's trade statistics.

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96 Published as Series iii, Miscellaneous Series, No. 38.

97 Published as Series ii, Special Series, No. 5, and Series iii, Miscellaneous Series, No. 6, respectively.

98 Correspondence in SHAC, 679(1), 21516, ‘Customs publication: iii. Miscellaneous Series No. 7: “List of Chinese Lighthouses, etc.: Chinese version”’.

99 See the discussion in Jürgen Osterhammel, Approaches to global history and the question of the ‘Civilizing Mission’ (Global History and Maritime Asia working and discussion paper series, Osaka, 2006).

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