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The Camphor War of 1868: Anglo-Chinese relations and imperial realignments within East Asia

Po, Ronald C. ORCID: 0000-0002-9678-0536 (2020) The Camphor War of 1868: Anglo-Chinese relations and imperial realignments within East Asia. English Historical Review. 1 - 27. ISSN 0013-8266

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Identification Number: 10.1093/ehr/ceaa313


The most totemic nineteenth-century military conflict between Britain and China was the First Opium War; the least memorable, perhaps, was the brief Camphor War of 1868, which broke out twenty-nine years later in Taiwan. As in the First Opium War, the Qing was defeated in the Camphor War as a result of Britain’s clear technological edge over China. Yet this was more than a minor military skirmish: it was an encounter that indicates the eagerness of the Qing to reposition itself in the global arena, both politically and economically. The Camphor War reminds us that the ‘clash of empires’ was very much part of a process of global consumption and commercialisation, which forced the Qing court for the first time to grapple with defending its natural resources and its existing monopoly over an established market. By tracing the social and material history of camphor, we can also see how demand for this commodity set the gears of the Qing, the British and the American empires into motion. The Camphor War was not concerned with a territorial dispute or the opening of a port city; its essential interest lies in revealing how, in the post-Opium age, competition between the Qing Empire and foreign powers could revolve around access to, and control over, a truly global commodity.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2020 Oxford University Press
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 15:30
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:45

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