Swansea academic to examine link between colonialism and Chinese globalisation
A research professor at Swansea University is to investigate French colonial practices in the Chinese port of Tianjin, which is seen by the Chinese Government as the original epicentre of Chinese globalisation.
Professor Nikki Cooper joined the Department of Modern Languages in the University's School of Arts in 2007. She was previously at the University of Bristol, where she was a member of the Centre for Colonial and Post-Colonial Society.
Professor Cooper's research forms part of the £800,000 "Colonialism in comparative perspective: Tianjin under nine flags, 1860-1949" project, led by Bristol University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
She will be investigating the history of French colonial administration and practices in Tianjin, whilst her former colleagues at Bristol will be examining the behaviours of the other European colonial powers.
Tianjin was opened as a treaty port in 1860, with British, French and American concessions the first to be established there. The city was situated close to the imperial capital at the crossroads between the advances of European and Japanese imperialisms and, as a result, Tianjin became an economically and strategically important centre.
By 1901, nine separate foreign concessions had been established in the city and the legacy of colonialism's impact can still be seen today, with architecture reflecting Bavarian castles, Italian neo-renaissance style villas, and Parisian cafes.
The project aims to fill a gap in the literature about the political, institutional and social history of Tianjin, and the practices and rivalries of the colonial powers. The fact that there were nine different colonial powers operating alongside each other gives the researchers a unique opportunity to compare different European colonial practices and to understand how different cultures and ideologies co-existed.
Professor Cooper said: "In many respects, it is possible to draw parallels between the modern rush to forge trade links with China and the race to establish a colonial trading centre in the 1860s.
"The Chinese Government has said that the opening of Tianjin as a free port in 1860 marked the moment when China started to globalise, rather than in the late 20th Century as some historians believe. We hope to establish the extent to which this is true."
Professor Cooper will be investigating records held in the diplomatic archives in Nantes and the French overseas archives in Aix-en-Provence. As the French concession in Tianjin was administered from French Indo-China, she may also travel to the Far East to research archives held in Hanoi.
The ESRC-funded "Colonialism in comparative perspective: Tianjin under nine flags, 1860-1949" project runs for three years.
For further information on the Department of Modern Languages at Swansea University follow this link.