Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
Detailed historical biography and more
on 10 March 2004
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.