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Empire careersWorking for the Chinese Customs Service, 1854–1949$
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Catherine Ladds

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085482

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085482.001.0001

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The Customs mindset: ethos, ideologies and knowledge about China

The Customs mindset: ethos, ideologies and knowledge about China

(p.24) Chapter Two The Customs mindset: ethos, ideologies and knowledge about China
Empire careers

Catherine Ladds

Manchester University Press

This chapter lays the foundations of the book by sketching how the Customs's institutional culture, as devised by the Inspector General Robert Hart, intersected with imperial ideologies. In disentangling this issue, it compares the guiding principles of the institution, the attitudes towards China exhibited by foreign Customs officers, and the ways in which Customs knowledge-production influenced Western understandings of China. By producing treatises, statistics and exhibitions, Customs officers played a central role in creating knowledge about China for Western consumption. As this chapter demonstrates, the Customs's information empire was influenced by both political changes in China and trends in colonial knowledge production. This chapter shows that, as a result of the institution's hybrid status, there were multiple voices within the Customs. Furthermore, despite the institution's attempts to distance itself from the foreign establishment in China, its project to modernise China under Western tutelage was an explicitly imperialist agenda.

Keywords:   colonial knowledge, institutional culture, imperial ideologies, modernisation, Robert Hart, statistics

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