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Maritime raiding, international law and the suppression of piracy on the south China coast, 1842–1869

Chappell, Jonathan (2018) Maritime raiding, international law and the suppression of piracy on the south China coast, 1842–1869. International History Review, 40 (3). pp. 473-492. ISSN 0707-5332

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Identification Number: 10.1080/07075332.2017.1334689


This paper explores how piracy was defined and eventually reduced in the South China seas between 1842 and 1869. In the early 1840s, a large increase in maritime raiding led British agents to complain about the unwillingness of Qing officials to suppress disorder and drove the Hong Kong administration to propose its own solutions. British metropolitan officials nonetheless rejected many of these measures, arguing that they ran counter to established international maritime laws that made the Qing responsible for policing Chinese waters. Attempts were made to write this responsibility into the treaty which followed the Arrow War in 1860, but it was changes in the Qing state in the 1850s and 1860s which led Qing officials to treat small-scale maritime raiding as seriously as that of large rebel pirate fleets. The new Imperial Maritime Customs Service created an incentive to prevent smuggling and piracy which could deter trade and hence decrease customs revenue. The case suggests, first, that the large reduction in maritime raiding rested on Sino–British compromise and, second, that Britain used international maritime laws as much to control the expansive ambitions of Hong Kong as to encourage changes in Qing practices.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Informa UK Limited
Divisions: Government
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 09:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:39
Projects: AH/K502947/1, DD024-U-14
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange

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