An effective introduction to a lesser-known portion of the British Empire’s global history.

The Scots and China 1750-2000


A brief history of the influence that the Scots and the Chinese have had upon each other’s countries and cultures.

Scots have been among the most influential Westerners in China since the early days of Britain’s Asian mercantile presence in the 18th century. This short but comprehensive overview introduces readers to the Scots missionaries, educators and merchants who helped shaped the two cultures’ relationship. Wotherspoon makes an effort to avoid generalizations about either ethnic group—as he notes explicitly in the book’s opening pages—by largely confining his history to the achievements of specific individuals instead of concentrating on broader trends. He highlights such notables as trader William Jardine, who rose to prominence when the East India Company lost its monopoly on the tea trade; Thomas Sutherland, founder of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank; and missionaries Robert Morrison and Dugald Christie. The book isn’t a critique of British imperialism, so the Scottish influence on China is largely celebrated, save for the Scots’ role in the opium trade. The book focuses primarily on Scots, but some Chinese figures also make appearances; some, such as student Huang Kuan, took advantage of Scotland’s higher education system, which, in the 19th century, offered more opportunities for outsiders than England’s Oxford or Cambridge did. Although Wotherspoon’s emphasis is largely historical, he also includes information on the current China-Scotland relationship; for example, Scotland is now home to more than 16,000 people of Chinese descent. Despite its brevity, the book manages to encompass a broad historical scope and includes numerous footnotes and citations. Readers may notice occasional, minor typographical errors (“King George 111”), but they do little to hamper the overall narrative.

An effective introduction to a lesser-known portion of the British Empire’s global history.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481025508

Page Count: 130

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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