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New Electronic Resources Explore China Through Western Eyes

By Jutta Seibert

In the past, faculty and students interested in Chinese history depended mostly on Falvey’s book collection for primary sources, unless their research budgets allowed for visits to archives and libraries elsewhere. Now, as a large part of the book collection is temporarily unavailable because of campus access restrictions, the small subset of electronic books with primary sources related to Chinese history, while most welcome, leaves much to be desired.

New digital archives with a focus on relations between China and the West are heaven-sent additions to the Falvey collections. Each collection offers unique Western representations of Chinese life, politics, and culture covering 200 years of economic, cultural, and political relations. Digital surrogates of selected documents, artwork, maps, illustrations, and objects were sourced from originals held by a wide range of libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies. Interested scholars can search all Adam Matthew Digital collections simultaneously via the AM Explorer platform or focus on individual collections that match their distinctive research interests.

China: Trade, Politics & Culture, 1793-1980 features selected primary sources on China’s relationship with the West dating back to the first English embassy and covering most of the 20th century. The collection contains digital copies of official papers, personal accounts, letters, books, and periodicals as well as reproductions of illustrations, maps, artwork, and photographs that depict Chinese people, places, customs, and events. Events covered include the opium wars and the Boxer War, the Nanjing Massacre, the Communist Revolution, and Nixon’s visit to China as seen by British observers. Originals are held at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library among others. Two essays by recognized scholars put the collection in its historical context while short biographies and search directories further facilitate discovery.

China, America and the Pacific: Trade & Cultural Exchange complements China: Trade, Politics & Culture with primary sources from US and Canadian libraries, museums, and historical societies. The collection explores trade and cultural exchange between China, America, and the Pacific region from the 18th to the early 20th century. Primary sources featured in the collection include digital copies of rare books and newspapers, personal accounts, diaries, letters, shipping papers, travel posters, historic maps, artwork, and images of material objects. The sources largely reflect North American viewpoints of China and the Pacific region. Essays such as Behind a Cup of Tea: The Commodities of America’s China Trade, 1784-1839 (John Rogers Haddad, Penn State Harrisburg) contextualize the contents of the collection. Short merchant biographies, a glossary, and subject index offer research assistance.

China: Culture and Society is based exclusively on pamphlets from the Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia at Cornell University Library. This unique collection of pamphlets on Chinese culture and society spans close to 200 years with the earliest pamphlets dating back to the mid-18th century. Also included are tourist guides, lecture notes, magazine articles, diaries, letters, and annual reports mostly written by Western diplomats, missionaries, merchants, scholars, and travelers. The collection was started by Charles W. Wason, a Cleveland based engineer, who developed a deep interest in China after a visit there. While some pamphlets, particularly those published in Britain and the US, can be easily found online in places like the Internet Archive, other pamphlets, especially those published in China, are rare and not available anywhere else in digital format. Contents range from English translations of Chinese poetry by Ezra Pound, to Sun Yat Sen’s “Kidnapped in London,” and tourist guides for Western visitors. Scholarly essays such as The Story of the Wason Pamphlet Collection (Liren Zheng, Cornell University) and a series of mini guides add historical context.

Scholars with an interest in China may also be keen to explore Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1980, another Adam Matthew Digital collection with British government documents from The National Archives at Kew and Socialism on Film, 1918-1988, a streaming collection of documentaries, feature films, and newsreels archived at the British Film Institute, which includes films produced in China for distribution in the West.

Access to the collections is available via the Library’s Database A-Z list and its catalog.


Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 



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Last Modified: May 19, 2020