Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

By Robert Bickers | Go to book overview

I
The Empire World

Empire is with us, in our waking lives, and in our dreams and nightmares. British society, politics and culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century are profoundly shaped by the imperial experience. The actual empire with all its frilly finery (which masked such violence) is mostly gone, the governors recalled, bases withdrawn, and the flags pulled down as the bugle played the last Last Post at sunset or midnight. Only scattered crumbs remain, a motley collection of islands and peninsulas and 190,000 residents of what were in 1999 renamed ‘United Kingdom Overseas Territories’. The once-powerful Colonial Office, which dispatched officials and directives across the globe, intruding into the lives of colonial subjects from the Caribbean to the Pacific, has been reduced to two very minor committees in different departments of state.1 No European empire long survived the peace of 1945, but the speed of British empire’s passing seemed a mystery. It was a good war for the empire in the short term, and it did not long feel too embarrassed by its Asian collapse in 1941–2 in the face of the Japanese army. United Nations mandate responsibilities substantially added to the bag of imperial holdings, and, having subsidized the war, the United States then underwrote the last decade of confident, assertive British imperialism after 1945 as a bulwark against the influence and expansion of the Soviet Union.2 But still, in the cold war era the essential pragmatic sensitivity of British imperial practice was hamstrung. The fear of communist expansion prompted inflexibility where there might otherwise have been a defter British touch. In Cyprus, Kenya and Malaya the challenge of colonial nationalism was met with arid, violent repression. By the end of the 1950s empire was generating more enemies - or potential enemies - than friends, both

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Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • I - The Empire World 1
  • 2 - Before Shanghai 18
  • 3 - Shanghai 1919 39
  • 4 - The Shanghai Municipal Police 64
  • 5 - Shanghai Detective 95
  • 6 - ‘Learning to Be a Man’ 130
  • 7 - The End of the ‘Good Old China’ 163
  • 8 - What We Can’t Know 202
  • 9 - Adrift in the Empire World 223
  • 10 - Empire’s Civil Dead 252
  • 11 - Aftermath 290
  • 12 - We Are the Dead 328
  • Acknowledgements 343
  • Ranks in the Shanghai Municipal Police, Foreign Branch 346
  • Note on Currency 347
  • Romanization of Chinese Words and Names 348
  • Illustrations 349
  • Notes 352
  • Unpublished and Archival Sources 390
  • Index 395
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