In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. China is Number 67 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The study was written by Charles William Campbell (1861−1927), formerly the Chinese secretary at the British Legation in Beijing, and thus is one of relatively few in the series issued under the name of an individual author. The study has two sections, “Political History” and “Social and Political Conditions.” The section on political history is in turn divided into two subsections, an overview of Chinese history from the late 18th century to the establishment, in 1912, of the Chinese Republic, and a more detailed treatment of the republic in the period from 1912 to 1917. Much of the work deals with the turbulent conditions that led to the fall of the Manchu Dynasty and with the question of whether republicanism was a suitable form of government for China. The study is written very much from a Western and British perspective, but the author expresses admiration for the Chinese people, whom he characterizes as sober, industrious, “highly endowed with judgment, good sense, and tenacity,” and accustomed to conducting “their own private and local affairs with tact and consideration.” He stresses, however, the past failures of higher government and administration, which he attributes to the way in which the rulers were educated and to their tolerance of corruption. The appendix provides a list of all of the principal treaties in force relating to China, of which the oldest were the treaties of Nerchinsk (1689) and Kiakhta (1727) with Russia, and the Treaty of Nanking with Great Britain (1842).

Last updated: November 14, 2017