Britain's Imperial Cornerstone in China: The Chinese Maritime Customs Service, 1854-1949, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Britain's Imperial Cornerstone in China

The Chinese Maritime Customs Service, 1854-1949, 1st Edition

By Donna Brunero


202 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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This is an in-depth account of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, a uniquely cosmopolitan institution established in the wake of China's defeat in the Opium Wars (1842 to 43), and a central feature of the Treaty Port system.

The British-dominated service was headed by the famous Robert Hart who founded a far-reaching customs administration that also encompassed other responsibilities such as marine and harbour maintenance, quarantine, anti-piracy patrols and postal services. This institution sat at a crucial juncture between Chinese and foreign interests, and was intimately linked to British interests and fortunes in the Far East. Following the establishment of the Republic in 1911 there were grave misgivings as to whether the foreign element of the Service would survive. Yet the Service grew in influence and strength, ensuring the foreign inspectorate a continued role in China's affairs.

Delivering an overview of the Service, its bureaucracy, fiscal responsibilities and life for foreigners in its employ, focusing especially on the later years of the Service, Donna Brunero draws on the experiences of the foreign administration of the Service as it attempted to negotiate between Chinese and foreign expectations and interests.


"Brunero takes the lead in the publication of her doctoral dissertation in the face of the newly accessible collection of abundant archival materials. Despite the recent historiographic development of decolonisation and China-centered perspective, Brunero's book purposefully and bravely takes an Anglocentric approach utilising the vast English documentation produced by the British-dominated bureaucracy in China in order to gain insight into the function and mindset of the inspectorate." -- Yuehtsen Chung, Itinerario 2007

Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgements 1. Introduction 2. An Institutional Review 3. Gunboats and Revenue 4. Nationalist Ascendancy and the Politics of being Inspector General 5. Charting a New Course: The Proposed Hong Kong – China Trade and Customs Agreement, 1929-30 6. A Service in Decline 7. ‘Steadfast and fearlessly persistent’: the CMCS in the face of War 1937-45 Bibliography

About the Author

Donna Brunero is a Research Fellow in the Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Asia has undergone immense and far reaching changes: war, revolution, occupation, industrialization. This series includes in-depth research on aspects of economic, political and social history of individual countries as well as more broad-reaching analyses of regional issues.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / General
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General