Charting Coastal Islands in the Great Qing

Key information

5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Brunei Gallery

About this event

Ronald Po (London School of Economics and Political Science) 

A significant paradigm shift in the examination of China’s engagement with the maritime world has taken place over the past two decades.

The conventional image of the Qing dynasty in the long eighteenth century as being merely land-orientated has now become obsolete. Historians are no longer satisfied with this stereotype and have put aside the conception that the Qing only realised the importance of strategic marine governance after the First Opium War.

In view of this historiographical turn, I seek to further complicate our understanding of the Great Qing in relation to the sea. By focusing on a series of sea charts produced in the eighteenth century, alongside some relevant palace papers, I will reveal the Qing’s approach to and tactics in managing the empire’s many offshore islands and their adjacent seas.

To date, historians have not yet thoroughly explored this topic. In this talk I will argue that the Qing’s process of locating and charting those offshore islands was an essential, indicative, and demonstrative step for the central authority to project its imperial power onto the waters off the coast of China long before the arrival of Western gunboats in the age of global rivalry.

Ron Po is Associate Professor of the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire, published by Cambridge University Press in 2018, and two books in Chinese, entitled The Placid Ocean: Qing China and the Asian Seas, and Turning the Tide: Historical Actors and Social Memories in Late Qing China, both of them published by China Times Publishing Co. in Taiwan. 

History Department Research Seminar

Wednesdays, 5:00pm - 6:30pm, room BG01 (Brunei Gallery) and online via Zoom

Please contact Wayne Dooling or Shabnum Tejani for further information on this series.