Lord Elgin was an experienced British statesman and diplomat sent to the Far East from 1857-59 in a successful attempt to assert British power after China had seized the British vessel ‘Arrow’. Elgin occupied the southern Chinese city of Canton and forced a treaty favourable to British interests on China before withdrawing. Elgin moved on to Japan where he negotiated a further treaty opening up the secretive and long secluded island state to European trade. On returning to Britain and learning that the Chinese Emperor had refused to ratify his treaty, Elgin was despatched to China once again, marched on Peking where he burned the Imperial summer palace in reprisal for the Emperor’s recalcitrance. China finally submitted and ratified the treaty. This full, two volume account of Elgin’s expeditions is written by Elgin’s personal secretary and is remarkable for its observations of the two strongest states in eastern Asia which were to have such a massive impact on subsequent history. Oliphant is lavish in his praise of Japan in contrast to what he views as the oriental obstinacy and untrustworthiness of China. Lavishly illustrated with colour plates, this is a must for anyone interested in China and Japan and the history of the British Empire.
NARRATIVE OF THE EARL OF ELGIN’S MISSION TO CHINA AND JAPAN IN THE YEARS 1857, ’58, ’59
Superbly illustrated two-volume account of Lord Elgin’s expeditions to the Far East in 1857-59 which resulted in the occupation of Canton, the burning of Peking’s Imperial Summer Palace; and the opening of Japan to European trade.