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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Revisiting Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Taiwanese Relationships

With Dr Henry Tsai (University of Arkansas)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective 

Date: Thursday 25 January 2007, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


Due primarily to the island's physical separation from the Chinese mainland, the ineptitude and corruption of the handful officials sent from China, and the unruly characters of the natives, the British nationals, who had direct contact with the islanders or who had engaged with the Mandarins there, did not believe that China had effective jurisdiction over the larger half of Taiwan. Because the British desired Taiwan's natural resources and also valued its strategic location, they did at one time contemplate annexation of Taiwan following the withdrawal of the English East India from China in the 1830s. However, after Britain had gained possession of Hong Kong in 1842, she chose not to occupy Taiwan, but instead, to only establish trading posts on the island to meet its commercial needs. The paper will discuss British gunboat diplomacy, shipwrecks, trade practices, and Presbyterian missions in Taiwan. In so doing, it will document Taiwan's deep and far reaching relationship with such Western values and cultures as Christianity, mercantilism and modernity. For example, British trading practices ushered the island to the steamship age, improved its transportation and communication infrastructure, and made Taiwan an integral part of the maritime trading world. The legacies left by British merchants at Taipei's Ta-tu-tia, the Presbyterian missionaries in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Chiayi, the British Customs officials, the British consulate in Tamsui and so on had helped to stimulate the growth of Taiwan. Finally, the paper will demonstrate that Taiwan was not just merely a Sinicized appendage of the imperial China, but instead had its own unique maritime traditions.