Distant Shores: Colonial Encounters on China’s Maritime Frontier

In a story that dawns with the Industrial Revolution and culminates in the Great Depression, Distant Shores reveals how the migration of Chinese laborers and merchants across a far-flung maritime world linked their homeland to an ever-expanding frontier of settlement and economic extraction. At home and abroad, they reaped many of the benefits of an overseas colonial system without establishing formal governing authority. Their power was sustained instead through a mosaic of familial, brotherhood, and commercial relationships spread across the ports of Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Swatow. The picture that emerges is not one of Chinese divergence from European modernity but rather of a convergence in colonial sites that were critical to modern development and accelerating levels of capital accumulation. With a focus on the Chaozhouese (Teochew) native place group of Chinese, this talk will address these claims while discussing the methodological challenges of writing translocal history.
Melissa Macauley is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University. She specializes in late imperial and modern Chinese history, 1500 to 1958.