Prof. Wayne Patterson: William Nelson Lovatt in Late Qing China
June 13 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm BST
William Nelson Lovatt in Late Qing China looks at the Imperial Maritime Customs Service and the final decades of the last Chinese dynasty through the lens of a British-American who served as a Tidesurveyor at nearly a dozen treaty ports. Rather than focusing on Inspector-General Sir Robert Hart with a top-down approach, Lovatt’s perspective is from the bottom-up, where there is little in the way of primary documentation, particularly for the nineteenth century. Lovatt arrived in China as a soldier in the British army during the Second Opium War, but remained in China to enter the customs service, and initially trained Chinese soldiers in three other conflicts as part of the Cooperative Policy: the Taiping, Nian, and the Japanese invasion of Taiwan. In his more than four decades he interacted with missionaries, diplomats, fellow customs officers, IG Hart, and Chinese of all stripes due to his fluency in the language. Lovatt provides an inside look at Chinese society and the treaty port system unlike few others. Additionally, Lovatt may have prevented Hart’s plan to annex the Korean customs service allowing Li Hongzhang to continue to control that county indirectly.