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.