Treaty Ports Conference

‘Treaty Ports in Modern China’

1st Call for papers

University of Bristol, 7th-8th July 2011

In the sixty years after 1842 dozens of Chinese cities were opened to foreign trade and residence under treaties more or less willingly signed, or else in some cases as ‘voluntarily opened marts’. Within many of these cities foreign states acquired exclusive concessions, but in others multi-national settlements were established, and all developed alongside and were intertwined with forcibly acquired or reluctantly devolved ‘leased territories’ and colonies. The outside world had come to China, building bunds, and foreign-style houses along them. For ordinary Chinese abroad began ‘at home’ – as W.C. Kirby has noted -- and they could taste it there. Chinese men and women came from inland cities and towns to look at the foreign-style cities and suburbs. Some foreign families lived and worked in China over five generations. The treaty ports have in the past been heralded as sites of Chinese modernization, and reviled as bridgeheads of colonial occupation. Most had been returned to full Chinese sovereignty by 1945. In recent years scholarship in China and overseas has started to revisit these complex sites, individually, as national networks, or as a single frontier-zone of Sino-foreign interaction, and even as prototypes of late-twentieth century Special Economic Zones.

This conference, organised by the ESRC-funded project ‘Tianjin Under Nine Flags: Colonialism in Comparative Perspective’, will bring together scholars working on different aspects of this world. We invite proposals for papers on individual concessions, networks of concessions, or on the other facets of the treaty port world, such as extraterritoriality, the foreign-dominated Chinese Maritime Customs, maritime space, foreign communities, consular services etc. We seek to understand the specificities of unique concessions and their host cities, but also how they interacted, were inter-related, and are to be understood in broader comparative terms.

Topics might include: individual concessions; architecture; governance; memorialisation; cultural and political brokers; law and treaties; land; the economics of the treaty port world; traders; foreign residents; policing; the press; travel writing; relations with Chinese residents; conflict; collaboration; cohabitation; violence; social and cultural policies. We would be very interested in receiving panel proposals with a clear comparative shape, as well as individual papers.

Individual paper abstracts (max: 500 words), or panel proposals (3 paper abstracts plus panel 500 word panel rationale), should be sent to the Project Administrator, Annabel Lander , no later than 31st January 2011.

Please list the conference title in your email subject line, the title of the title of the paper at the top of the abstract, and at the end list name, institutional affiliation and contact information. Informal enquires to: Professor Robert Bickers (

The organisers expect to be able to contribute to some, though not necessarily all, travel and accommodation expenses.  A companion conference, ‘Colonial circulations’ is also being organised on 4-5 July.