SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Book launch: Transitions to Modernity in Taiwan The Spirit of 1895 and the Cession of Formosa to Japan

Niki Alsford (Central Lancashire)

Date: 18 October 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 18 October 2017Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Book Launch

CTS-IMG-2017-Book-Transitions to Modernity in Taiwan


April 1895, British Consul Lionel Charles Hopkins, at the northern port of Tamsui, was summoned by Tang Jingsong, the governor of Taiwan, to his yamen in the western district of Taipei. Shortly after his arrival, Hopkins was handed a petition. Signed by a number of Taiwanese ‘notables’, the document appealed to the British government to incorporate the island into a protectorate in the wake of an impending Japanese invasion. The British declined.

This book addresses the interconnectivity of these two communities, by focusing on the market town of Dadaocheng in northern Taiwan. It seeks to contextualise and examine the establishment of a ‘settler society’ as well as the creation of a sojourning British community, showing how they became a precursor of modernity and ‘middle classism’ there. By uncovering who the signatories of the petition were and what their motivation was to call upon the British consulate to bring the island under its protection, it brings into focus a remarkable period of transition not only for the history of Taiwan but also for the modern history of China. Using 1895 as a year of enquiry, it ultimately challenges the current orthodoxy that modernity in Taiwan was simply a by-product of the Japanese colonial period.

As a social and transnational history of the events that took place in Taiwan during 1895, this book will be useful for students of East Asian Studies, Modern Chinese Studies and Asian History.

CTS-IMG-2017-Niki Alsford


Niki Alsford is Reader in Asia Pacific Studies and Director of the International Institute of Korean Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. He is also Research Associate at the Centre of Taiwan Studies at SOAS, University of London and sits on the Executive Board of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS). He received his PhD in East Asian History from SOAS and his current research focuses on late nineteenth and early twentieth century transnational social history in the Asia Pacific region. His most recent publications include: Transitions to Modernity in Taiwan: The Spirit of 1895 and the Cession of Formosa to Japan (Routledge, 2017); Chronicling Formosa: Setting the Foundation for the Presbyterian Mission, 1865-1876 (2015); and ‘A Barbarian’s House by the River Tamsui: One House and the History of its Many Occupants’, which was published with the Journal of Family History (2015).

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

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