British Diplomacy in China, 1880 to 1885

British Diplomacy in China, 1880 to 1885

British Diplomacy in China, 1880 to 1885

British Diplomacy in China, 1880 to 1885

Excerpt

All abstraction falsifies, and collation of diplomatic documents is in itself an exceedingly abstract pursuit. Diplomatic history is one strand in a coherent movement of historical forces, and should be so treated by the student. The ambassador was also a man, a creation of a certain environment, and his policy was an expression of the entire system of relationships composing his country. What importance his policy had, again, is not to be reckoned by the reactions of a number of professional rivals, but by its consequences for the life of the two peoples concerned. History refuses to be algebraised; nothing can happen except through individual brains; but it is not gibberish; its grammar can be mastered, if only in part. Diplomacy and economics are two languages describing the same events. However hard it may be to translate from one into the other, it is an attempt that must be made. Nor, in making it, can the student's mind be empty of criticisms of the past, and of the present that has grown out of it. If it could, it would be empty indeed.

The subject of this essay is surrounded by a ring of related problems in Asiatic history: British policy in Turkestan in the last years of Yakoub Beg; the question of Thibet, which we tried to enter in 1885, and that of Burma, which we annexed in 1886; Anglo-French rivalry in Siam; above all, the part played by Japan, and her relations with England. In describing Chinese events it has been of assistance to me to have made some study of these also. They must, however, be reserved for separate treatment. For the same reasons of space I have omitted from discussion here the intricate negotiations leading up to the Opium Agreement of July 1885, and material relating to certain . . .

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