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Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai Paperback – 3 Jun 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (3 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141011955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011950
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"'This is a biography of a nobody that offers a window into an otherwise closed world. It is a life which manages to touch us all' Empire Made Me"

About the Author

Robert Bickers is Senior Lecturer in History at Bristol University. He has published extensively on Chinese history.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Empire is with us, in our waking lives, and in our dreams and nightmares. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Mar. 2004
Format: Hardcover
An interesting biography of Richard Maurice Tinkler, a British man who lived in the International Settlement in Shanghai from 1919 to 1939, also describing the city and contemporary life.
The book provides a detailed picture of Shanghai life between the wars, and the unique nature of the International Settlement and other Treaty Ports. Tinkler joined the Shanghai Municipal Police; its composition and workings are described in some detail in the book, as are the workings of the Shanghai Municipal Council. I could really picture the place and the people.
The book discusses the Treaty Ports, Shanghailanders, Tinkler and other expatriate workers ('labourers, farm workers, railwaymen, warehousemen, quarrymen' to quote the author) in the context of the British Empire, and thus goes beyond just a biography of Tinkler.
The author is an academic and the structure and style of the book is, in my opinion, an amalgam of a purely academic history treatise and a a popular story. The writing style is somewhat more academic than I would have preferred, but is still readable. The author quotes profusely and provides detailed statistics, both of which sometimes get in the way of the story, even if they might be interesting to students of history. I'm not sure I needed to know that in 1925 (was it?) there were 7,923 acres in the External Roads areas outside the Settlement, for example.
The author must have done a tremendous amount of research, and the book is obviously a labour of love. The detail makes it a good book for students of Empire, Shanghai and the inter war years, but it is also a good read for anyone interested in modern history. The writing style is not quite as fluid as I would have liked, but it's still a very good read.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Graham Thompson on 3 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a superbly researched, delightfully written personal history of an ordinary man in an extraordinary city. Although it tells the story of a British policeman who worked in Shanghai in the 1920s, it has a resonance today. As a British expat working in Shanghai for the last 18 months, I have felt exactly the same fascination and frustration with this Chinese city that looks Wrstern, but is not.
Dr Bickers' painstaking and patient research is also an excellent example of how to do this kind of history. It is a detective story - appropriately enough - about a detective, and he pieces together the evidence carefully. Where there are gaps - and there are many - in the documentation, his speculations seem spot on.
There are many more histories of this kind to be written, of ordinary people in extraordinary times and places. Look in your loft !
As a PS to the final chapter of the book, I went to the International Cemetery in Shanghai on 2 May to find Tinkler's memorial stone. It is still there, although hard to find buried in undergrowth.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. I. Gow on 15 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Most books I have read on Shanghai offer a glimpse into a debauched world of decadence and indulgence. This seems to be the Shanghai that has lingered since the Mao proclaimed victory in 1949 and changed China's path. Even today, Shanghai is viewed as a gleaming beacon by us in the west, though having lived there for 18 months, my overwhelming memory of Shanghai is the sheer graft of everyone who lives there.

Back then, as now, not all foreigners were upper-class entrepreneurs and philanthropists. It is fascinating to read about the lives of 'ordinary' people.

What Bickers does really well is paint a picture of Tinkler's evolution (or regression) as a man of the Empire. It is painstakingly researched, with Tinkler's own story deveeloping against the backdrop of a magnificent city in decline.

Insights into the peculiarities of extraterritoriality; how the Treaty of Nanjing (and subsequent treaties) eventually returned to haunt the Shanghai Municpal Council; the racial tensions between local Chinese, White Russians, Brits, Japanese and Americans, and the eventual disintegration of Shanghai are brilliantly explained and analyzed, running alongisde the story of a man who, in the end, is difficult to like. However, as Brits, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

MG
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Hall on 29 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a fantastically detailed piece of factual historical research, which uses the life and times of one Maurice Tinkler as a vehicle to describe life in and around the International settlement of Shanghai in the early to middle 1900s from the perspective of a Shanghai Police Officer.

This is more than an autobiography of one man molded by his experiences in service of the British Empire, some aspects of which are sad such as his lost love who clearly never really forgot him and the harsher side of colonial living such as Tinkler's overtly racist attitude to the Chinese and his disdain for the Sikh and Chinese Police Officers.

The references provided with this book are quite exemplary to the point of creating a book within a book, many references indicting other possible routes of research and interest, giving the impression (to me at least) that this work could easily have been an edited down version of a Masters or Doctoral thesis.

Given the author's background and the nature of the funding for this research, the academic style of writing is entirely forgivable, given as it does to maintaining the flow of reading but it clearly leans heavily away from being a quick read.

Rightly or wrongly however, I felt that at times that some information could have been added as much because there was a reference available to support it, as to the support it gave the issue being discussed, which at times prompted the question `where are we going with this'?

That said, this is a remarkable piece of work given the depth and breadth of detail and supporting information it contains which quite rightly contributed to this book being awarded the first Institute of Historical Research prize in 2000.
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