Curated Studies

An important outcome of the DPCL project is the publication of data resources, which have been developed from the archival material in this way, for use by the wider scientific community. These resources embody the investment of extracting accurate historic person instance data at scale from the printed sources, and they are linked where possible to digital page imagery showing their original context via online services. A range of other research questions can be supported by these services, which also provide an empirical foundation that can be extended and further enriched in the future by other scholars. Continued accessibility to this data is therefore essential and, accordingly, long-term data preservation techniques have been employed.

Tracing Internees in French Indochina between 1929 and 1942

by Christian Futter, University of Basel

This Case study aims to present the possibilities of connecting the Foreign Resident Lists with additional source material from French archives. Herein documentation from the internment of American Citizens and Court cases after the War have been linked to two individuals on the Foreign Resident Lists. Their story should help demonstrate the Asia Directories' potential within a more extensive digital archive.

A wave of repression and internment directed against citizens of allied nations in Indochina commenced at the beginning of 1941. The Japanese maintained a formidable military presence in the territory following troubled negotiations with French authorities during the Summer of 1940. Following the initial assault by the Wehrmacht in May 1940 and subsequent defeat of France in Europe six weeks later, Franco-Japanese negotiations in Indochina evolved into a process of extracting concessions. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japanese pressure on formerly neutral French Indochina increased still further: Japanese counterespionage manifested in measures against citizens of states then at war with the Empire of Japan. The French authorities in Indochina reluctantly acquiesced, and allied civilians were interned in the civilian internment camp in Mytho, approximately 70 kilometers outside Saigon, in a decommissioned military barracks. The treatment of inmates, however, was acceptable compared to other Civilian Assembly Centers in Asia—primarily because the French authorities sought to avoid provocation of the Allies, and they presented themselves as a neutral actor. Although reacting to Japanese pressure, this policy of internment was therefore implemented reluctantly by the French administration (See Federal Archive Bern, Telegramm / Handwritten Note 39 in: B.24. GBr. (19) 5 A. 1942 / GBR / GRANDE BRETAGNE en INDOCHINE / Mesures contre des Ressortissants, Date: 20.05. 1943). Approximately 188 American, British and Dutch citizens can be traced in Indochina immediately before these measures, but of those 28 were placed under house arrest and 48 under surveillance (See Federal Archive Bern, Handwritten Note 36, in: B.24. GBr. (19) 5 A. 1942 / GBR / GRANDE BRETAGNE en INDOCHINE / Mesures contre des Ressortissants, Date: 06.04.1943 and Federal Archive Bern GBr. (19)6. -J/Ha., in: B.24. GBr. (19) 5 A. 1942 / GBR / GRANDE BRETAGNE en INDOCHINE / Mesures contre des Ressortissants, Date: 08.05.1943) while 50 citizens of Allied states were interned at Mytho See Federal Archive Bern, Handwritten Note 36, in: B.24. GBr. (19) 5 A. 1942 / GBR / GRANDE BRETAGNE en INDOCHINE / Mesures contre des Ressortissants. (Date: 06.04.1943) and Federal Archive Bern GBr. (19)6. -J/Ha., in: B.24. GBr. (19) 5 A. 1942 / GBR / GRANDE BRETAGNE en INDOCHINE / Mesures contre des Ressortissants, Date: 08.05.1943). Archival material from the Mytho internment camp concerning the U.S. citizens was compiled by the Swiss Consul in Saigon, Hans Hirsbrunner as “Les ressortissants américains confinés à Mytho” and was sent to the American delegation in early October 1943. This material survives in the Swiss Federal Archive at Bern and has been digitized by DPCL. We can therefore test the utility of the digital methodology proposed using persons appearing in Hirsbrunner’s list of internees by comparing it using instances of persons appearing in other archival sources.

We trace an individual interned at Mytho to demonstrate that we can manage and employ empirical data at scale, and a create historical narratives out of this information. Consulting American civilian internee records provided by NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) in the U.S., which were based on Red Cross reports from the region and have been analyzed by another sub-project of The Divisive Power of Citizenship, and which now form a Zenodo record (Cornwell, Peter J, & Herren-Oesch, Madeleine. (2019). Treatment of American National Archives Records of World War II Prisoners of War (0326). (1.1.0) [Data set]. Zenodo.> we find, for example, that Swiss-born American, Gabriel Denis Corvissiano was interned in Mytho. Although the NARA record for Corvissiano presents little further information, DPCL’s Mytho person instance data confirms that Corvissiano was present there, together with his wife and children Leo and Gabrielle (this dataset can be downloaded from the corpus repository or the DPCL record at as a JSON file, and it can be found interactively using a presentation website described below). Research in French archives offered more insights into this individual and provided further information about the treatment of allied citizens in Indochina considered hostile by Japan. Furthermore, these documents shed light on the complicated relationship between French, Japanese and Allied citizens in Indochina. Gabriel Corvissiano was arrested, like most of his compatriots, soon after Japan entered World War II. However, he was treated differently because of his commercial activities: specifically, he was a partner of the French citizen Charles Edouard Anthony in the operation of a phosphor mining concession. This was an economic sector of strategic interest to the Japanese, but since the French authorities sought to curb foreign influence in the economic sphere of the colony, the Japanese were only permitted to operate in cooperation with a French citizen (Mining and agricultural concessions in Indochina had to be organized by a Franco-Japanese partnership. See Verney, Sébastien. L’Indochine sous Vichy : entre révolution nationale, collaboration et identités nationales, 1940-1945. Riveneuve éds., 2012, S. 205.). Japanese intelligence recognized the opportunity presented by Anthony’s circumstances, leading to the release of Corvissiano from detention on commercial grounds. However, the threat of re-internment remained: Corvissiano was reminded by the police of the ‘benevolence’ of the Japanese officials, intending to persuade him to relinquish his commercial interest and make way for a Japanese partner in the business. He conceded his share of the concession in August 1942 and he and his family were soon after repatriated to Lourenço Marques (See Archives National Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, cotes: Z/7/23, dossier : Z/7/23 LAUBIES 170 pièces, cahier: CONTRE: Laubies, Anthony).

Charles Anthony can also be traced using the Asia Directories and Chronicles listings, which have been digitized and analyzed in another sub-project of The Divisive Power of Citizenship. We find 8 appearances of an Anthony, C. E. in the Directories, in Haiphong between 1926 and 1939. The person instances, which (as well as appearances of others by the same surname) can be viewed interactively at, list the occupation of this Anthony consistently as Commercial Manager or Commercial Director and, additionally, return either Société des Verrieries des d'Extreme-Orient or Société des d'Extreme-Orient or Société Francaise des Verreries d'Indo-Chine as employer. These results are inadequate alone to establish an unequivocal Charles Anthony person entity, however they are already strongly supportive of the residence of a single individual using this name in Haiphong between 1926 and 1941, prior to his association with Corvissiano.

Reconstructing this narrative via a thread of historic person instance datasets greatly increases the rate at which such hypotheses can be tested, reducing recourse to physical archives, and reveals additional significant sources. In this example it has provided insight interactively into the politics of internment in Indochina perpetrated by the French authorities, as well as the challenges faced by Gabriel Corvissiano. This would have very laborious indeed to achieve using conventional methods. Corvissiano seems to be an exception: currently we can identify no other US citizen able to pursue his profession after internment had begun and subsequently repatriated. Corvissiano’s position gave him freedoms which no other US-American enjoyed. For his part Charles Edouard Anthony, probably grasped opportunities that political realities offered for his own benefit. On one hand the overwhelming Japanese military presence and increasing isolation of Indochina meant that Japan represented the only practical market for Anthony’s business. On the other hand, Japanese citizens were only allowed to participate in markets in partnership with French businesses. Anthony realized that continued collaboration with a partner from an Allied nation was untenable, and precipitated Corvissiano’s departure.

This essay intends to show Asia Directories' possibilities for historical research. By themselves, both entries in the Foreign Residents List are not very informative. We find that a G. D. Corvissiano worked for Hongkong Minerals & Trading Co. in 1940, and a C. E. Anthony simultaneously worked for the Société des d’Extrême-Orient in Haiphong. Only through connecting the two individuals with other sources can we entangle the complex story of the two persons. We not only gain an inside into the difficulties of these two Westerners in East Asia, but we can also gain a better understanding of the political and personal patterns that with the Second World War start to influence the different citizens in French Indochina as a community.

Women in the Directories – Traces of the English Governess to the Siamese Royal Family

by Madeleine Herren-Oesch, University of Basel and Lea Katharina Kasper, University of Basel

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In 1870 Anna Harriette Leonowens published a bestseller, The English Governess at the Siamese Court, which told of her work as a governess in Thailand from 1862 to 1868. The story about a brave English widow who accepted an unusual job offer and fearlessly traveled to Bangkok with her young son was already a bestseller in the 19th century and has remained in the public imagination until today. Margaret Landon, an American missionary also working in Thailand but later on in the 1930s, presented her own version of Leonowens’ work. Landon published a novel entitled “The King and I” (1944) when she was back in the US. Rodgers and Hammerstein brought her work to Broadway in the early ‘50s from where it went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster in 1956, with a host of subsequent film and stage adaptations. Since the 19th century, Leonowens’ depiction of the Thai court has been the subject of critical debate which pointed to orientalist clichés and inconsistencies. Critical investigations led, among other things, to the inclusion of Thai sources, for example, King Mongkut's correspondence. A manuscript on the rehabilitation of the king written by Thailand’s first Ambassador to the United States and his brother after World War II is part of the international collections division of the Library of Congress. The critical discussion mentioned reveals a hitherto underestimated feature of nineteenth-century global history: the global trade in information did not guarantee an imperialist monopoly on interpretation, but rather opened up a dispute in a now increasingly international and highly contested public sphere.

Chronicle & Directories: an excavation site for multiple narratives outside the nation

Leonowens story with its multilayered traces is reminiscent of an archeological site where global history appears as the focal point in a field of excavations exposing the many national narratives instead of following just one. Simply finding Leonowens and Landon in the Foreign residents lists is therefore less exciting than using the Asia Directories as a view from the outside from which stories and arguments can be seen as part of an exchange across borders; information is therefore rare and precious but also difficult to verify. Global history provides established methods of analysis which work with the simultaneity of different scales. This approach allows us to focus on inconsistencies, taking these as indicators for the presence of different layers and arguments. Within this methodological framework, the Chronicles & Directories starts narrating about a difficult, stressful, controversial, messy and challenging world. Leonowens’ entry in the foreign residents list - it will remain the only one in the years she spent in Siam - was published in the very first volume of the Directories in 1863. It reveals inconsistencies of considerable historical significance: first, the incorporation of Siam (called Thailand after 1939) remained outside the planned aim of the serial, as explained in the preface of the 1863 edition. Not a colony but a sovereign state in an imperial age, Siam gained considerable importance in this volume. Information focused on the royal court, highlighting the numbers of queens, wifes, concubines and slaves. Hence, the Chronicles & Directories had provided Leonowens’ readership with a backdrop of established knowledge from which the personal description presented in her subsequently published memoirs derived quite a degree of veracity. There is, however, an interesting difference between her entry in the foreign residents list and the title of her book: “Governess in the king’s family” indeed sounds less spectacular than The English Governess at the Siamese Court. The book did in fact claim that the author had a position which went far beyond being a tutor for the children. In her books, Leonowens presented herself as a secretary and translator with access to the archives and as someone involved in the king’s policy making - a remarkable position for someone who was yet to learn Thai. This claim is all the more remarkable when taking into consideration the Siamese king whom she served, whose fluency in English, extensive library and interest in the newest technologies were well known in the West (Henri Mouhot, Voyages dans les royaumes de Siam, Paris 1868). Leonowens’ description as a foreign resident in the Asia Directories is of an unambiguity that is rare in her many autobiographical publications. Even contemporary reviewers have noticed that she was elusive and that her origins remain unclear.

If it is true that she was born as a British subject in India, her claim to the more advantageous status of foreign resident is further evidence of the self-positioning of an individual who sought to assert herself in the tangle of different legal statuses for subjects prevalent throughout the British Empire.

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Robert Harris, Portrait of Anna H. Leonowens, Confederation Center Art Gallery, Charlottetown, Canada (
Living in the intermediary world of foreign residents

Leonowens learned in the 1870s to what extent life in the intermediary world had lost its exclusivity. John Thomson, a British photographer spent half a year at the king’s court in 1865. In his autobiographical travelogue Thomson accused Leonowens of the unauthorized use of his photographs. Furthermore, he had some good reasons to think Leonowens’ visit to the Cambodian ruins of Ankor Wat never happened and that her description was just taken from Henri Mouhot (John Thomson, The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China and China: or Ten years’ travels Adventures and residence abroad, New York 1875). While Leonowens left Siam in 1868 and never returned, the traces and contemporary opportunities of an intermediary foreign resident’s life remained connected to her family’s history. Her son, Louis T. Leonowens, took on a similar role as a foreign resident in Siam in the 1880s. After serving in the Siamese military service, he founded a teak trade company which still exists today as the Thai TLT company ( The long lasting consequences of a difficult life of economic failure and adventure took a rather unexpected turn in the case of Louis Leonowens. His company, founded in 1905, needed a main seat - the building was recently renovated and now a tourist attraction (

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Zooming Out – Creating new Sources of Information through Interpretation Strategies

With Leonowens as an example, the digital accessibility of Asia directories presents findings on the microlevel of a personal biography. The question is, whether the data material allows a quantitative, gender based analysis, which goes beyond the coincidence of a single case. From a methodological level, the data processing indeed includes gender in different forms. Besides name prefixes such as Mrs., Ms., the use of feminine prefixes in job titles such as proprietrix, led to a categorization of the respective person instance as a woman. As a consequence, the dataset of the Foreign Residents lists allows quantitative, gender-related findings with some unexpected results.

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Number of Women in the Foreign Residents Listings over the Years

The graph needs further investigation, but challenges historical expectations at the same time. is to be understood as preliminary and will be further investigated in future research. Nevertheless, the interesting developments can be identified. Surprisingly, and confirming the usefulness of such methods, more women than in a broad review of the digitized archival sources expected were found. The year 1900 shows that more than 5.5% of the Foreign Residents were women (out of 18’589 Foreign Residents 1059 were women). From a methodological perspective, the question is whether the data preparation has specific consequences for the analysis. There is a low chance of getting false-positive results, meaning that men could be categorized as women, as a consequence, the numbers could even be higher. However, there are some source-specific characteristics that must be considered when evaluating this initial analysis and the developments illustrated therein. The increase between 1890 and 1900 appears to be an actual increase in women on the Foreign Residents Listings, since the layout and content of the lists is consistent throughout these years. The comparatively low numbers for the earlier years and some later years do not mean that there were no women but are rather due to the fact that they were not always recorded in the Foreign Resident Listings. In some years, women were listed in separate "Women Directories" or in "Missionary Listings". Although not all women were excluded from the Foreign Residents Listings when introducing these separate sections and sometimes also overlaps can be found – the absence or decrease can to some extent be explained by the different structure of the individual books.

Further, it is noteworthy, that entries which were identified as women have relatively few different occupations. A considerable amount of these occupations can be attributed to businesses and educational institutions such as hotels, cafes, schools and missions. These institutions mentioned are interestingly not dominant represented in the Foreign Resident Listings of earlier years. This may be due to the fact that fewer such institutions existed in earlier years, and/or because these institutions were only included in the Directories over time after they had become established as a “general reference book” and were of interest to a wider audience than primarily businessmen. The database allows further research to be carried out. It would be interesting to examine the places where these women were domiciled, the institutions and professions they worked in, how many of them were married and how long they were mentioned in the Foreign Residents Listings. To conclude, the methods used are able to give historical relevance to those who are little considered and almost invisible.

Tracing Individuals in Late 19th / Early 20th Century China

by Dominique Biehl, University of Basel

The Asia Chronicles and Directories are a valuable source to follow individuals throughout East Asia in late-19th to mid-20th East Asia. They offer a fascinating angle from which to observe the upheavals, challenges and changes that affected the foreign community in East Asia in these defining decades.

When doing historical research about German military involvement in the Boxer War, one learns very quickly that the armed forces of the German Empire were rather ill-equipped for an extensive expedition in East Asia, as they were in short supply of personnel familiar with the theatre of operations. To solve this problem, the German military was looking for suitable candidates to be deployed to East Asia who would be familiar with East Asian languages and cultures. When in the summer of 1900 the German Army High Command in East Asia (Armee Oberkommando in Ostasien) embarked on its journey from Germany to the Far East, it not only consisted of military professionals such as general staff officers, but also of officers who had once been military instructors to China and were thus thought to be more knowledgeable about China than others (though they might not necessarily be able to actually speak or write Chinese). Last but not least were people engaged in commercial activities in East Asia in general who were drawn from the reserve.

One such person whom we can encounters is a Mister “zur Nedden”, hired by the Armee Oberkommando in Ost-Asien on a contractual basis as an interpreter for Japanese (Fedor von RAUCH, Mit Graf Waldersee in China. Tagebuchaufzeichnungen, Berlin 1907, p. 5) Based on this information about this certain Mr. “zur Nedden” and further knowledge about his commercial activities in Japan, the Chronicles & Directories of Asia reveal one “Walther zur Nedden”, who can be identified in East Asia at the end of the 19th century, as shown in the following extract (from the Yokohama directory of 1897):

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Evidently, he has links to Yokohama – and thus also might have had some familiarity with Japanese: Walther zur Nedden was working with C. Weinberger. & Co., merchants and commission agents, in Yokohama from 1897 to 1902. In 1903 zur Nedden left his position in Japan and joined Buchheister & Co., Ltd. in the treaty port of Tianjin. He seems to have worked with this company until at least 1909.

With his move to China, economic success seems to have been on zur Nedden’s side: In the Directory of 1909, we can read that he is now residing at 10, Quai de France in Tianjin and even has his own telephone:

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This image of economic success is further confirmed by the Directory of 1910: Instead of being a mere employee, zur Nedden now runs his own business as a “machinery and general importer.” We can still find him in that position in the Directory of 1915.

The economic and personal disruptions that World War I represented for parts of the Foreign Community in East Asia also left their mark on zur Nedden’s biography. He joined the Coronation Lodge in Tientsin in 1905 (Membership Register of the United Grand Lodge of England, here: Coronation Lodge of Tientsin. Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Membership Registers: Colonial and Foreign O 2645-2869 to Colonial and Foreign P 2871-3083; Reel Number: 30), where the membership register shows him as a member until 1914. Post-1914, however, he is neither a member of the Coronation Lodge in Tianjin anymore (Membership Register of the United Grand Lodge of England. Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Membership Registers: Colonial and Foreign O 2645-2869 to Colonial and Foreign P 2871-3083; Reel Number: 30), nor can we identify him in any of the Directories published right after the end of World War One. From a German magazine we learn that in 1919 zur Nedden found a new position with W. Simons & Co. in Tianjin («Privatnachrichten von draussen», in: Mitteilungen für China-Deutsche. Hauptorgan für die Interessen des China Deutschtums, 1. ). After 1918 his years of self-employment were clearly over, and he was working as an employee once again.

In the mid-1920s, he was registered as an employee of the company Siemssen & Co. in Tianjin, before moving to Mukden, where he first appears in the 1928 volume of the Chronicles & Directories as an agent of Holstein & Co., for which firm he still worked in 1937.

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For a timespan of nearly 40 years, we can see how zur Nedden first moved his base from Japan to China and how he then stayed in China also in times of internal turmoil in the Republican Era and during the escalation of the conflict with Japan.

Although Walther zur Nedden is just one of thousands of foreigners whom we can encounter in the pages of the Asia Directories, he is one of those foreigners who moved in and around East Asia for nearly 40 years and for whom East Asia was an integral part of his life and existence. With the information made available by the Asia Directories, one can very easily follow individuals in their movement throughout East Asia, learning more about the structure and restructuring of the foreign community in the first half of the 20th century, for example, by following individuals on their journey throughout this part of the globe, providing valuable information with which to start archival work proper.

In fact, the “Zur Nedden” who was deployed to China by the German Army High Command, one learns, was not the Walter zur Nedden that we can find in the directories, but rather a Max zur Nedden, who graduated from the Seminar for Oriental Languages at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin (Velten, C. / Lippert, J., Afrikanische Studien 1901 (Mittheilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen an der Königlichen Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin, Jahrgang IV, Dritte Abteilung: Afrikanische Studien, Berlin und Stuttgart, 1901. IV) and who, at the end of April 1901, seems to have travelled to Japan (Literaturverzeichnis RAUCH, Fedor von, Mit Graf Waldersee in China. Tagebuchaufzeichnungen, Berlin 1907, p. 346.).

Tracing Socio-Ecological Projects in British Malaya

by Lars Kury, University of Basel

In the wake of the “Great Divergence” of economic growth between the West and the rest after 1800, the scramble for colonial territory drew an enormous number of engineers, explorers, and prospectors into the Asian and African interior. These “new” actors of European territorial expansion – often sent on behalf of science, technological progress, and the self-proclaimed “civilization mission” – sought to command more resources than their imperial ancestors to dominate the colonized societies and landscapes. In fact, from the 1850s onwards, technological differentials enabled the Europeans for the first time to control large territories beyond the coastal enclaves.

This imperial endeavor was driven by an ever-greater appetite for raw materials in the industrial metropolises and increasing demand for natural resources in the rest of the world, ranging from forests and marshlands to mineral and energy deposits. The world’s tropics became veritable production sites, productive and legible spaces. In this colonial venture – described by environmental historian Corey Ross as a series of “socio-ecological projects” – powerful nations and organizations exploited weaker countries to escape their own resource constraints. (Ross 2017, p. 4) These projects were not only intended to create modern European schemes across wide areas and regions, but they also had profound environmental consequences: J ungles were cleared, soils were sealed, water flows diverted, habitats were destroyed, diseases scattered, and plains were silted up, halting natural geomorphological processes such as erosion and sedimentation. From a technological perspective, furthermore, new methods were employed to exploit nature’s wealth and resources, ranging from massive mining and plantation facilities to new forms of agrarian management systems. In short, European imperialism transformed the tropical world, with all its consequences for human and non-human actors.

Behind the shores of the Malacca Straits, in the dense jungles of the British protectorates of the Malay States and the Dutch East Indies, probably one of the most profound and sustainable human interventions into the processes of nature and environment has seriously shaped ecological systems from the 1850s onwards: The tin-mining on the Malay Peninsula and on the so-called Tin Isles next to Sumatra Island.

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Tin mines at Kampar in Ipoh, British Malaya, c. 1910 (Kleingrothe, Carl Josef, 1864-1925 / Public domain).

Southeast Asian tin-mining was in many ways a socio-ecological project in Ross’ sense: In the Malay highlands, for instance, the discovery of the world’s largest tin fields, in Perak, Selangor, and Negri Sembilan in the 1840s and 1850s, was followed by an unprecedented process of imperial infrastructural and economic incursion producing both ecological ramifications and social distortion: Geological tin fields were translated into productive sites of commercial exploitation, and colonial roads and railways were constructed to connect the Malay interior with the shores of the Malacca Straits. The impacts on nature and society were devastating: Where new infrastructures privileged some, they worked to the disadvantage of others; where local industries and residents were displaced, old transportation routes became marginalized. Furthermore, tin-mining caused the deforestation of numerous woodlands, rivers were badly silted, and rainforests and grasslands were transformed into gray, cratered landscapes with sandy and acidic soil. In other words, the tropical ecosystem of the Malay hinterland became utterly disrupted for decades to come.

The Asia Directories Database provides two particularly promising research avenues for studying these socio-ecological transformations in British Malaya: Firstly, searching the database for profession and location allows to capture the sheer quantity of imperial actors engaged in such endeavors. This includes the colonial engineers who (re)built the British ports and railways for the transport of increasing tin volumes, the naturalists and geologists who explored the Malay interior for hidden tin fields, and the merchants who managed trade for global tin exports. According to the Directories, for instance, the number of registered engineers in Perak, an area where the world’s largest tin fields were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, increased from 3 in 1886 to over 30 in 1906. This process correlated closely with a variety of infrastructural projects in the region, most notably the construction of the railway lines connecting the mining districts of the Kinta Valley in Perak with the Malacca Straits’ coastlines. The same is true for the number of geologists who conducted geological surveys in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, or Perak, exploring the interior for further tin reserves.

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The Railway Station at Kuala Kubu, c. 1908. The Malay village was one of the main tin-mining centers in Selangor. (Arnold Wright, H. A. Cartwright (eds), T wentieth-Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources, London, 1908), p. 306.

Second, on a micro-historical level, the database allows us both to identify individual protagonists of infrastructural projects, and to trace these actors over time. Let me illustrate this using the example of a certain A. Spence Moss: Moss regularly appears in the Directories between 1885 and 1890 as an engineer of the “state railway department” in Selangor. Using this piece of information as a key to accessing archival sources, a story begins to unfold about the infrastructural transformation of British Malaya to access nature and resources. Referring to the British Colonial Office records, for instance, Moss was not only closely involved in correspondence with the Government House of the Straits Settlements and the British government in London but was even largely responsible for the examination of a new railway trace connecting the tin-mining areas in Ipoh with the port in Teluk Anson in the late 1880s. Moss’ engineering reports and memoranda are emblematic of the socio-ecological projects of the imperial age, especially since he emphasized both the control of nature and technology, and the displacement of old transportation routes and native traders.

To conclude: Recent approaches in global environmental history describe European colonialism as a two-pronged program to reorder both ecological and social arrangements in wide parts of the world. The Asia Directories allow to grasp the imperial protagonists of these so-called socio-ecological projects for the specific case of the Malay Peninsula: The database gives a quantitative overview of the dispatch of engineers, naturalists, and merchants in British Malaya and permits to zoom in on individual actors and their trajectories. This approach renders the nineteenth-century socio-ecological transformations in the tropics less as exclusive political decisions “from above” and more as the result of the agency of a multitude of individual actors.

Foreign Residents in and beyond the Chronicles & Directories of Asia

by Matthew John Craig, University of Basel

Flipping through the pages of any volume of the Directory & Chronicle of Asia printed since the turn of the century, the reader is presented with quite a juxtaposition as we proceed through the China directory from the extensive Tientsin (Tianjin) section to the two pages covering Taku (Dagu), a small town, some 67 miles (108 km) downriver. ‘The village of Taku is of inconsiderable size and contains few shops and no buildings of interest’, reads the very matter-of-fact opening sentence of the chronicle of 1941 (CD-1941-317/8-83/4 Taku). Coupled to this, the Taku directory – barely a quarter of a page in length – only reaffirms the town’s modest commercial development. In years past, however, this directory typically filled about half a page and was often longer than the Taku chronicle, as is apparent in the 1898 edition, for example (CD-1898-545-113). This was never again the case after the Boxer Uprising and, in particular, after the Battle of the Taku Forts, early on the morning of 17 June 1900.

By contrast to the riverside settlement, the demolished remains of the Forts, lying about a mile (ca. 1.6 km) out of town, remained of considerable interest to the C&D’s editors at the Hongkong Daily Press, Ltd. In the late nineteenth century, Taku was already said to be ‘memorable on account of the engagements that have taken place between its forts and the British and French naval forces’ during the Second Opium War, with British military forces – eventually, after a ‘fatally unsuccessful’ attempt – capturing the forts and sailing ‘triumphantly up to Tientsin’ in August 1860 (Ibid.). After the Boxer War the chronicling of violent confrontation between the British-led treaty powers and the Late-Qing Empire was not only even more triumphalist in tone. We also encounter two unmistakable, new dimensions to the rhetoric that are evident in the following passage from the 1901 chronicle:

‘It will probably be a contentious question to the end of time if the ultimatum sent in to the [Chinese] Commander on Saturday, June 16th, to hand over the Forts before the next morning precipitated the crisis in Tientsin and Peking or not. The official people in general held that it did, lay observers affirm that it made no difference; that the Imperial Government now captured by the Reactionaries was fully committed to the Boxer movement, and that the non-capture of the Forts would have involved the destruction of every foreigner and native Christian in North China. The admirals [of the international alliance] had to decide this fine point, and, with the exception of the American Officer, they took the line of men of action. After a council of war they sent in the ultimatum that they would open fire at daybreak next day if the Forts were not surrendered. The Commander [of the defending Chinese garrison] referred the matter to Tientsin, and was ordered not only to resist but to take the initiative.’ (CD-1901-604-149).

This passage went on to be reproduced for the next 40 years without any major revision – that is, except for one key addition to be analysed below. Firstly, we see a more internationalist dimension developing in tension with the residual pro-British, nationalist inclination of the publisher based, after all, in the Crown Colony of Hongkong. This reflects the unique but very delicate multi-lateral character of treaty-port China where the treaty powers managed an uneasy coexistence during the era of High Imperialism. For example, there is a peak at this time in the number of so-called “leased territories” and “treaty-port concessions” – the latter denoting micro-colonies within a port city, primarily governed by nationals whose government obtained the land through “gunboat diplomacy” and “unequal treaties”. In Tientsin a grand total of eight treaty powers, namely, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Belgium, Austria-Hungary and Germany had officially carved out waterfront property (primarily) for their privileged nationals along the banks of the Peiho (alternatively: “Haiho” or modern: “Hai River”). The United States, despite its anti-imperialist rhetoric to the contrary, unofficially presided over a de facto ninth concession adjoining the already extended British Concession. Except for Belgium, whose skilful diplomats attained a concession in Tientsin without recourse to arms, all of these treaty powers deployed military forces against the Boxers and the late-Qing Empire. Of course, their differences could only be put aside temporarily because of a real threat to the lives of the foreign residents and their legal foundation in the treaty system of extraterritoriality that consisted of a patchwork of unequal treaties bound together by the “most-favoured-nation” principle, which guaranteed a semi-colonial status to all states (and their subjects) that had concluded treaties with the beleaguered Manchu Dynasty. These imperialist states had every reason to cooperate earnestly in 1900.

The Taku chronicle really does reflect this international collaboration on the field – or rather, the river – of battle. Still in 1941, for instance, one could read the listed names of the ‘six little cockle-shells of gunboats’ deployed by the Western powers on which ‘the entire weight of the business fell’ on the 17th of June (‘the British Algerine, French Lion, German Iltis and the Russian Bodr, Gelek and Korietz’) in addition to the ‘two landing parties of British and Japanese numbering about 300 each’ (CD-1941-317-A83). The chronicle does not explicitly praise and highlight individual acts of courage and heartiness nor masterstrokes of military strategy by the other treaty powers in the same way it does for the British to whom it often draws very favourable attention (one example being the ‘conspicuous bravery by British torpedo-boat destroyers Whiting and Fame’ in capturing all Chinese torpedo boats, which were then ‘distributed among the Allies’), but the like-mindedness, cooperation and common cause of the other powers is certainly evident throughout (CD-1941-604-A84).

Here, nevertheless, it is important not to overlook ‘the exception of the American Officer’ who was the sole detractor, not taking the admirable ‘line of men of action’. His place in the narrative highlights both the limitations of the pro-international dimension of the Taku Chronicle, in one sense, and the strength of an important second dimension defined by pervasive anti-government rhetoric. In carrying out orders from the ‘official people’ in the United States Government, the American military officer in question showed a modicum of restraint, refraining to some degree from the sabre-rattling of the other naval forces of the treaty powers assembled. His role as a kind of “voice of reason” in opposition to the apparent consensus view that nothing short of an aggressive violent response against the Chinese was necessary was not exactly commended by the editors at the Hongkong Daily Press. The latter, with newspaper subscriptions and the annual Chronicles & Directories to sell all across the Far East and, indeed, as foreign residents themselves, had to “have their finger on the pulse” – so to speak. We cannot know for sure how broadly public opinion in the treaty ports aligned with the C&D’s conservative political orientation and framing of events in their chronicles. However, the fact, already alluded to, that the Taku and other chronicles could still be reprinted and sold for decades on end without an editorial overhaul is some indication that their take on events encountered little serious opposition – at least from subscribers.

Populist animosity towards far-away and out-of-touch home governments, their diplomatic and consular representatives and, in the case of formal colonies like Hongkong, Colonial Office officials was rife across colonial Asia. Public officials were frequently understood to be a hindrance to the business activities and freedom of the merchant trading communities, not least because they supposedly lacked business acumen and “common-sense” practical knowledge of local conditions, especially the real political relations with oppressed (semi-)colonial subject populations on the ground. To provide just one example of anti-official populism, a passage in the 1923 edition of the Tientsin chronicle reads:

‘The city will ever be infamous to Europeans from the massacre of the French Sisters of Mercy and other foreigners on June 21st, 1870, in which the most appalling brutality was exhibited; as usual, the [Chinese] political agitators who instigated the riot got off’ (my emphasis) (CD-1923-698-642).

This short passage expresses a clear sense of a miscarriage of justice and populist outrage that go far beyond the tragic incident at hand – which, it is worth bearing in mind, took place a full five decades prior to this publication. There is a broader system of political discontentment at which the editors are hinting and into which they are attempting to tap. Indeed, it would seem that the ‘political agitators’ are certainly not the only essentialised adversary against which the political community of foreign residents should be defined. What is also perhaps relevant for our own time is the blurred lines between the political and media spheres and the public and private sectors: where the chronicle as a product of a private, commercial media enterprise ends and where the fundamental elements of a public historical record begins is unclear. In any event, it is through this peculiar construction of history that we start to gaze upon a unique political community bound together, as is often the case, by a particular historical narrative – even if some of the architects of this haphazard construction knew little other than how to expertly ply their trade.

Intertwined with the two dimensions already elaborated on is the newspapermen’s bullish rhetorical style of framing events within the chronicle; this being only exacerbated by the racial antagonism and Western imperialism of the treaty-port setting. We encounter a remarkable paradox at the heart of this narrative in which the oriental enemy is portrayed as weak and ineffectual, even “effeminate” (according to contemporary and regrettably widespread racist and misogynistic worldviews), especially in comparison to the inherent strength, courage and decisiveness of the Western heroes of the story. Meanwhile, the general requirements of “good story telling” dictate that the element of danger must be emphasised at all times, so that the inherent bravery and strength of character of the “good guys” can be seen to have prevailed under very trying circumstances – under which others would have definitely faltered. The Taku chronicle walks a fine line here, but the editors would have known that the foreign residents were a lot less critical of a certain government institution active in Asia – i.e., the military – and wanted a good story. The natural geography of Taku offered the chronicler a very convenient setting in which to celebrate the European Powers’ assembly of ‘the greatest naval armament ever seen in the Eastern Hemisphere, and one might add in the history of the World, at Taku Bar’, while in the very same text stressing the dangerous situation in which the six small but brave European gunboats (mentioned above) found themselves, as only they could traversed the shallow sandbar guarded by the forts (CD-1906-765/6-643/4). It was stressed that ‘[a] single well-timed shell would have utterly destroyed any one of the six vessels, but Chinese gunnery was once more at fault’; then we are informed that “[t]he whole affair was finished before 6 a.m.–a large number of Chinese dead testifying to the accuracy of the Allies’ fire’ (Ibid.). The blatant anti-Chinese bias of the narrative requires no explanation, perhaps only its function in combination with the other two dimensions highlighted in the Taku Chronicle.

To briefly sum up, the Chronicles & Directories, as reflected by the Taku Chronicle, are aimed at a unique transnational community in the making in treaty-port China, one generally characterised by: (1) common cause with other similar semi-colonial foreign nationals living and trading in the vicinity of one another; (2) a shared distrust of home authorities and diplomatic and consular representatives of the nation-state attempting to enforce the national interest at the expense of emerging local interests; and (3) racial and cultural unity in so far as the language and cultural differences between the treaty powers and their foreign residents were relatively minor compared to the native Chinese; these circumstances facilitated a sense of community that would be missing in a different, non-colonial setting. It ought to be noted that the third point in particular carries with it a number of stipulations: there is remarkable continuity with the first dimension of the community and, secondly, there existed one special exception, a non-Western treaty power, in fact, with the largest number of foreign residents in China – Imperial Japan.

One Managerial Position, Two Very Different Foreign Residents

Using the Taku Chronicle & Directory as a jumping off point, we will see that even a small exploration of the directories and a handful of the foreign residents filing these thousands upon thousands of entries takes both the casual and the careful reader on a fascinating journey through a unique world, the likes of which will never be seen again. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Taku chronicle’s rehashing of the Battle of the Taku Forts is an additional sentence that was blatantly tacked onto the reprinted narrative in the 1906 volume of the C&Ds for the first time – fully five years after the majority of the narrative was settled in the 1901 edition. The added phrase is highlighted below within its context:

‘[…] After a council of war [the admirals] sent in the ultimatum that they would open fire at daybreak next day if the Forts were not surrendered. Mr. Johnson of the Taku Tug and Lighter Company and a Chinese Scholar carrying his life in his hand delivered the ultimatum. His services have not been recognized by the British Authorities. The [Chinese] Commander referred the matter to Tientsin and was ordered not only to resist but to take the initiative […]’ (my emphasis) (CD-1906-766-644).

While the naval personnel kept the lion’s share of the glory in the Taku chronicle, for the next 35 years of its publication, the foreign residents were granted a place for their own representative in the narrative. It was ostensibly filled by quite an exceptional treaty-port resident, an unsung hero who also risked his life and went above and beyond, using his local experience and expertise to contribute to the Chinese defeat.

In actual fact, however, there was no Chinese scholar by the name of Mr. Johnson working for the Taku Tug and Lighter Company around the turn of the century – at least, not exactly. This begs the question: who was this courageous and knowledgeable foreign resident, recognised year in and year out as “Mr. Johnson” until the printing of the C&Ds was brought to a halt by the Pacific War? The answer to this mystery was somewhat fast in forthcoming but provides ample opportunity to explore some of the lives passing through the directories, spanning the Far East. Such a deep dive into the directories and the corresponding ‘List of Foreign Residents’ also allows the historian to point out along the way certain limitations and methodological challenges in the source material – some of which can be met with the assistance of new digital humanities methods.

The detailed annual entries of the Taku Tug & Lighter Co., Ltd. always accounted for a good proportion of the Taku directory. The importance of this British river navigation and transport company for the bustling international treaty port of Tientsin cannot be overstated: for decades the firm’s ‘Taku Manager’ oversaw an indispensable commercial service at the global gateway to the city, barred by the aforementioned, infamous strip of sand at the mouth of the Peiho that also prevented large ocean-going merchant vessels from reaching the docks at Tientsin directly, particularly prior to the later efforts of the international Haiho Conservancy Commission that sought to improve the navigability of the river. In attempting to verify the facts, as the first step in an investigation, it seemed totally plausible that a foreign resident helping the (combined international) admiralty with local knowledge in the area around the Taku Forts would be associated with the Taku Tug Co. Hence, it seemed more likely to be the case that, were there an error in this new passage in Taku chronicle, it would stem from an incorrect surname rather than mistaken company details.

The fact that neither a first name, initials nor the position in the company were mentioned by the chronicler made the task of locating and identifying this individual more difficult, but an examination of several years of company entries in the Taku and Tientsin directories from the 1890s into the 1900s did yield two candidates whose names may have been mistakenly recorded as ‘Mr. Johnson’: the first, a very remote possibility and the second, an almost definite match. The two men, Mr. J. W. Jameson and Mr. W. S. Johnston (my emphasis), respectively, both served as “Taku Manager” for the Taku Tug & Light Co. at different times, but neither man was managing operations at Taku around the time of the Battle in mid-1900, as had initially been hypothesised. Their biographies can be retraced to a surprising extent using only the various volumes of the C&Ds, though this method requires a little creativity at times and quite some patience; although, the time-saving and research potential of the Foreign Residents Database, a digital humanities project of the Europainstitut of Basel, Switzerland, can facilitate some satisfactory research results in this direction.

Far away from North China, Mr. J. Jameson was first listed as ‘chief engineer’ for ‘V. Roque’ in Saigon in the C&Ds’ list of ‘Foreign Residents’ in 1876 (CD-1876-131-115). His French employer, Monsieur V. Roque alongside his brother and manager, Mr. H. Roque, ran a government-contract steamship navigation company, servicing the ‘different provinces of Cochin China’ (CD-1876-402/3-376/7). Still working for ‘Roque Frères’ in 1880, Mr. Jameson was now referred to in the Saigon directory as the ‘superintending engineer’, alongside a formal subordinate recorded simply as ‘Mackie, engineer’ (CD-1880-457-443). The fact that this man, likely Scottish or Irish, is not listed in the Foreign Residents of the same year points to a commonly encountered epistemological and methodological challenge in using the C&Ds: the Far East was a vast and complicated social space, inherently difficult to catalogue, in spite of the best efforts and bold ambitions of the Hongkong Daily Press.

One can only work with what data is available, and it is highly recommendable to deploy a methodology that utilizes all available sub-sections of the Chronicles & Directories of Asia of relevance to the research task at hand. The Foreign Residents List, especially when the digital database is fully operational (which it was not at the time of writing), should almost always be the first port of call, but the various directories – as well as the chronicles, as is being demonstrated – are indispensable sources of information, without which many potential research questions would go unanswered and, perhaps worse still, unasked. It is essential to invest some time in getting to grips with the structure, layout and overall purpose of each section of the volumes and how these were originally intended to be used by the readership of foreign residents, among other considerations. In returning to the case of Mr. J. W. Jameson, who is registered in the 1885 residents’ list as working for ‘Messageries de Cochinchine’ in Haiphong, North-eastern Vietnam (CD-1885-139-128), a kind of dialectical method of bouncing back and forth between the List of Foreign Residents and whichever directories might be of relevance can be quite fruitfully employed. It is most effective when the longitudinal dimension is not neglected, and the researcher tests a couple of hypotheses, following various leads across multiple editions of the C&Ds, particularly those surrounding apparent key moments or turning points in an individual’s biography (e.g. a change of location, position, company or organisation) or a company’s history (e.g. founding, staff changes, name changes, dissolution). Accordingly, from a quick look into the Haiphong and Saigon directories, not only Mr. Jameson but also the Roque brothers’ riverboat navigation and engineering firm has changed bases, moving the centre of their operations from Saigon, in which directory they are no longer listed, to Haiphong (CD-1885-602-583 Haiphong).

Moving to Hongkong’s Wanchai shipbuilding district on the island’s north shore around 1885, Mr. Jameson went into business with a Mr. J. W. Croker, a shipbuilder who registered as a foreign resident in 1886 but was nowhere to be seen in 1887 (CD-1886-92-85). ‘Jameson & Croker, engineers and shipbuilders’, headquartered at the ‘Novelty Iron Works’ and employing at least six other men, was a very short-lived enterprise . For the next two years Mr. Jameson was employed as an ‘engineer’ by another small marine engineering company known at the time as George Fenwick & Co. but with origins in the early 1880s as ‘Fenwick, Morrison & Co.’ (CD-1888-141-136 F.R.).

He did not live alone in Hongkong. Mrs. Jameson also moved to the Crown Colony in the mid-1880s, it seems, appearing in the newly established ‘Hongkong Ladies’ Directory’ as early as 1885 at which time her husband was still registered in Haiphong (CD-1885-304-292). The next year we can observe a slight alteration in her brief entry, her husband’s first initials being added in the old customary way, most likely for practical reasons, because of the newly registered Mrs. R. M. Jameson to whom a teacher in Hongkong’s West Point was married (CD-1886-319-332, CD-1886-145-138). This separate directory is particularly interesting and provides the historian with not just a little more of the much needed information about the thousands of women living in the Far East, the majority of whom were excluded from the List of Foreign Residents, but it can also provide crucial biographical information on their male family members as well. Accordingly, we can ascertain two important facts about Mr. J. W. Jameson from briefly studying his wife’s entries in the Hongkong ladies’ directories from the mid to late 1880s – beyond the simple fact that he was actually married. Firstly, we get an indication of the Jameson family’s home address which changed in 1887 from ‘Queen’s Road East’ to ‘Praya East’, merely a stone’s throw away; secondly, we have some confirmation that the family as a whole left Hongkong in 1888, derived from Mrs. Jameson’s omission from the 1889 directory (CD-1887-324-314, CD-1888-336-326, CD-1889-348-327).

Regrettably, we lose track of Mrs. Jameson around 1888 when she and her family moved to North China where she likely remained for the next decade, unbeknownst to the Office of the Hongkong Daily Press. While ladies’ directories were published for a number of treaty ports over the years, this was not the case for Tientsin and Peking at this time. One might expect the Hongkong directory to be the most comprehensive, cutting-edge and up-to-date, since the C&Ds were published on the island, but, by the same token, a small settlement like Taku might be prone to neglect. In any case, it was here that Mr. Jameson took on the role of ‘Taku Manager’ for the Taku Tug & Lighter Co., replacing one D. J. Webster – seemingly a local fixture – who worked at the mouth of the Peiho for many years and is described as ‘acting manager, Taku’ under the company’s large entry in the Taku Directory of 1888 (CD-1888-487-472). Aside from a temporary leave of absence in 1894, during which Mr. H. J. McCrae filled in (as shown in Image 1), before the latter resumed his normal position of ‘superintdt. engineer’, Mr. Jameson managed affairs at the Taku end for almost a decade on behalf of the company’s directors, whose head office was simultaneously listed in the Tientsin directory (CD-1894-495, CD-1895-509-97). His time at the company came to an end around 1898, after which he appears in niether the company entries nor the foreign residents list (CD-1898-546-114, CD-1898-1122-681). His immediate successor, H. J. W. Marshall, was promoted to manager but carried out this role from Tientsin, where some years later he was again promoted – on that occasion, into the firm’s directorate (CD-1899-567-125). Incidentally, the same page informs us that he was also honorary secretary of the ‘Taku Club’ – the only social club in town that the Hongkong Daily Press agent thought warranted a mention (CD-1899-567-125).

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The 1894 Entry of the Taku Tug & Lighter Co. in the Taku Directory (CD-1894-495/6-96/7)

The reemergence of the Jameson family in Hongkong in about 1904 after an apparent six-year hiatus – at a minimum from the Chronicles & Directories of Asia, at a maximum from the continent of Asia itself – allows us to take note of an important methodolgical challenge encountered in historical research in general and in the Asia Directories as a particular, namely, handling errors and inconsistencies in the source material. In this connection, we can appreciate once again the value of the Hongkong ladies’ directory as an additional recourse to which to turn in order to cross-reference uncertain information gleened elsewhere in the Asia Directories. In the spirit of the old addage, let us consider ladies first: a Mrs. E. W. Jameson was recorded in the ladies’ directory for two consecutive years, with the first entry in 1905 noting the ‘King Edward Hotel’ as her place of residence and the 1906 edition indicating a change of address to the nearby ‘Hongkong Hotel’, right in the heart of downtown Victoria (CD-1905-1118-482, CD-1906-1161-972). Having her lodgings first at the brand new King Edward Hotel (pictured below), with an entrance at No. 12 Des Vœux Rd., Mrs. Jameson coincidentally lived right next door to the Hongkong Daily Press Office, whose address was recorded as ’14, Des Vœux Road Central’ in the 1905 directory (CD-1905-1074-440). More importantly, it appears at first glance that Mrs. E. W. Jameson went by her own first name rather than following the existing formal convention that prioritized the husband’s first initials, which we have already observed in her entries from the late 1880s.

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Hongkong's King Edward Hotel, built in 1904, destroyed by fire in 1929. Pictured here is the Entrance on the Corner of Des Vœux Rd. & Ice House St., ca. 1920. Source:

Of course, this is putting the proverbial cart before the horse, because it first must be corroborated that this entry is hers and not that of a different, possibly related woman. Methodologically, one can proceed by cross-referencing these two entries against her husband’s data in the Hongkong directory and foreign residents list, looking for any discrepencies between their respective timelines chronologically across the available editions of the C&Ds corpus. Although this is made a little more difficult by some printing errors, we can be quite confident – though never absolutely certain – that we have identified the correct person. Mr. J. W. Jameson reappeared in the 1904 volume of the Asia Directories in 1904 in the List of Foreign Residents as ‘Jamesson, [sic] J. Watt, marine salvage engineer, Hongkong’ (CD-1904-1570-939) and also under a new company entry in the Hongkong directory:

JAMESON, J. WOTT, [sic] Marine Salvage Engineer, 8 Beaconsfield Arcade : Tel. Ad. “Salvage” (CD-1904-1063-445).

These mistakes were corrected by 1907 when the last known reference to the Jameson family can be found in the C&Ds, namely, Mr. J. Watt Jameson’s Foreign Residents entry (CD-1907-1630-1503). His final company entry of the previous year aligns with the information attributed to Mrs. E. W. Jameson; the business contact address for his marine salvage engineering operations being recorded as: ‘Hotel Mansions, fourth floor; Tel. Ad. “Salvage” A.B.C. & A. I. Codes’ (CD-1906-1122-933). Indeed, the printing errors cited here are not serious and one cannot exactly say these entries are riddled with innaccuracies, but such errors are not infreqent in the source material and have to be anticipated when working with the C&Ds. Sometimes mistakes themselves can also be of interest to researchers – as premise of the current work aims to show.

Rev. W. S. Johnston: from a Man in a Mission to "a Man on a Mission".

In stark contrast to the modern and luxurious Hongkong hotels in which Mr. and Mrs. Jameson’s three decades in the Far East appear to have come to an end, Mr. W. S. Johnston’s story begins at a mission station, deep in the interior of China. It is intriguing that these two foreign residents – having very different backgrounds – occupied the same managerial position on the Peiho either side of the turn of the century. Mr. Johnston’s background, reassembled using the directories and Foreign Residents lists, puts to rest any lingering doubts about the mistaken identity of ‘Mr. Johnson’ (sic), the mysterious Taku Tug & Lighter Co. employee and ‘Chinese Scholar’ who handed the Chinese fort commander the Allied ultimatum at in June, 1900. They are one and the same person.

Mr. Johnston’s in-passing accreditation as a China expert stemmed from his years of on-and-off association with the protestant China Inland Mission (C.I.M.) with which organisation he started out in 1889 as a missionary in ‘Cheo-Kia-Keo’, Honan (Zhoukou, Henan Province) (CD-1889-152-141). After undergoing a six-month induction course covering ‘Chinese language, geography, government, etiquette, religion and the communication of the Gospel’, it was customary for C.I.M. recruits to be stationed in the interior for two years under the supervision of a senior missionary; ‘successful candidates became junior missionaries’ who would eventually be entrusted to lead a station after a further five years of service (‘Description of China Inland Mission’, China Inland Mission Archive, 1815-1999, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Archives, University of London. GB 102 CIM, accessed on 15 Sep. 2022 via: On the surface, Mr. Johnston’s two-year placement at Cheokiakeo alongside about seven other missionaries is a quite typical start along this institutionalised career path. He was no longer registered with the Cheo-kia-kèo mission in 1891 and, notably, not with the C.I.M.’s headquarters in Hankow (Wuhan), instead appearing in the missionary subsection of the Hankow directory under the label ‘unconnected’, in contradiction to his outdated description as a ‘C.I. missionary’ in Hankow in the foreign residents’ list of the same year (CD-1891-544-153, CD-1891-941-541).

In 1892 we see the first evidence of Mr. Johnston’s marriage, but one cannot deduce from the C&Ds alone precisely when the couple got married. Now listed under the Wuhu directory, ‘Rev. W. S. and Mrs. Johnston’ joined the International Missionary Alliance, within which organisation they moved to the small settlement of ‘Tatung, Anhwei’ (Datongzhen, Tongling, Anhui Province), located on the southern bank of the Yangtze, approximately 100km upriver from Wuhu (CD-1892-548-153). This directory entry suggests that the Johnston family resided in Tatung alone, while their remaining six colleagues, four of whom being women, were based at the main mission station in Wuhu, which housed twice as many missionaries from the following year – a total of nine men and five women (Wuhu dir.: 1893: p. 149/pdf 549). It seems unlikely that Mr. Johnston as a junior missionary in the C.I.M. system would have been put in charge of a (sub-)mission like that for which his family was responsible in Tatung. What is clear is their time here ended around 1895, upon their replacement by Messrs. Jasper C. Howe and L. Eroksen, who were sent over from Wuhu (CD-1895-590-155).

The Johnston family subsequently made their way to North China. After a small hiatus, we find the first indication of their whereabouts in the 1897 foreign residents’ list: ‘Johnston, Mrs., missionary, Sheoyanghsien, Shanse’ (my emphasis) (CD-1897-700-659). Curiously, Mrs. Johnston was registered, while her husband was omitted, likely because the editors misunderstood the formatting of the information supplied to them by the C.I.M. (and printed in the ‘Missionaries’ subsection of the Tientsin directory) when assembling that year’s list of residents (CD-1897-149/50-108/9 Tientsin). This is yet another reminder of the scattered and unsystematic registration of the many thousands of female foreign residents living throughout the Far East; exceptionally systematic by contrast were missionary registers listing many single and married women, in addition to the handful of ladies’ directories like those of Hongkong cited above.

Evidently, Reverend Johnston and his wife re-joined the China Inland Mission, proceeding to the outpost of Sheoyanghsien, Shansi (Shouyang County, Shanxi Province), about 110km east of T’aiyuen-fu (Taiyuan), a hub of missionary activity until the infamous anti-foreign massacre in the area in July 1900. The apparently lucky couple, were re-registered in 1898 as a part of the ‘Sheo-Yang Mission’ with Mr. Johnston replacing his wife in the corrected entry in the List of Foreign Residents, but then in the following editions of 1899 and 1900, without any corresponding changes to the Sheo-Yang Mission’s entry in the Tientsin directory, Mr. Johnston’s location was changed to Tientsin (CD-1898-1124-683, CD-1898-541-109; CD-1899-1160-710, CD-1899-562-120; CD-1900-1254-772). From consulting the C&Ds alone without external supporting evidence, we cannot be sure of precisely when the Johnstons left Sheoyanghsien, but an estimate of sometime in 1898 is surely not too wide of the mark.

Now located in comparatively safer treaty port of Tientsin, the family’s affiliation with the mission continued until at least 1902. The Hongkong Daily Press editors created a separate system of Protestant missionary registration in the 1901 edition of the C&Ds – clearly in response to the Boxer violence against foreign missionaries. Corresponding Protestant missionary sections for Corea (Korea) and Japan were created at the same time and appended to the end of these countries’ respective directories. Hence, the reader is redirected from the tiny ‘Missions’ subsection of the Tientsin directory, containing just two Catholic missions (‘Procure de la Mission Catholique du Tchely Sud-Est’ and the ‘Roman Catholic Mission’), to the ‘end of [the] China Directory’ (CD-1901-596-141). Here, in the ‘Sheo-Yang Mission’ entry, we find ‘W. S. Johnston and wife’ alongside three others listed under Tientsin as well as the ‘absent’ Dr. E. H. Edwards and [his] wife’ under Taiyuen-fu, the mission’s only other registered location (CD-1901-783-326). The last reference to the Sheo-Yang Mission and, indeed, to Rev. and Mrs. Johnston’s missionary activities was made in 1902; the entry is identical to that of the previous year’s edition, except for the Edward family’s leave of absence from Taiyuen-fu from which they had returned (CD-1902-844-343).

In the meantime, Rev. Johnston started working for the Taku Tug & Lighter Co. Remarkably, the first mention of this is only made in the 1901 edition, in which Mr. Johnston’s Foreign Residents entry reads: ‘Johnston, W. S., assistant, Taku Tug & Lighter Co., Ld., Tientsin’ (CD-1901-1276-811). As merely an ‘assistant’ based in Tientsin, his name never featured in the head office’s entries in that city’s directory; it only appeared for the first time in the Taku directory of 1902 and without any reference to his position within the company, when his location noted in the foreign residents’ list was changed to Taku (CD-1902-657-159, CD-1902-1366-853). From these scant references to Mr. Johnston in the directories, one might get the impression that his rise through the company’s ranks was meteoric. What is certain is that Mr. Johnston worked as the firm’s ‘Taku Manager’ for a decade from around 1904 until at least his last confirmed entries in the 1913 edition of the C&Ds; although, it should be noted that the 1914 and 1915 volumes were unavailable to the author at the time of writing (CD-1904-173-177 , CD-1904-1572-941; CD-1913-818-789, CD-1913-1735-1672; CD-1916-836-742, CD-1916-1727-1619). Though disappearing from the Taku directory, Rev. W. S. Johnston lived on far beyond this time in the Taku chronicle, albeit under the incorrect name of ‘Mr. Johnson’ – a treaty-port man on a dangerous mission to deliver the Allied ultimatum to the Chinese Fort Commander.

The Foreign Residents for the Far East beyond the Asia Directories

In my doctoral project, provisionally entitled: Enemy Aliens: from Privileged Citizenship to Internment in Japanese-Occupied North China, I investigate the irreversible transformation, the eventual destruction under wartime conditions of Japanese occupation, of the transnational treaty-port communities which formed both the main subject matter and readership of the C&Ds of Asia. Not all enemy aliens made it aboard in Shanghai when the two American (in the broad sense of the word) and one British civilian exchanges took place during the middle of the Second World War – indeed, only after strenuous negotiations with the Japanese Government through the good offices of neutral Switzerland and with the involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Many – in fact, the majority – of the thousands of Allied civilians who found themselves in Japanese-occupied China (and the Far East more broadly) after the 8th of December 1941 were left behind, designated “enemy nationals” and, in most cases, interned behind barbed wire for years until the dying days of the War.

The C&Ds of Asia are such a valuable primary source in studying precisely what special treaty-port communities of foreign residents underwent wartime transformation according to (re)imposed organisational designations such as nationality and reimagined, recast categories such as race, which was turned on its head in the establishment of Japan’s so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, supposedly, on the ashes of semi-colonial governance in China and the formal Imperialism found throughout the Far East, as the Western powers vacated the area in defeat during early 1942.

The current work has attempted to demonstrate the academic and historical value of the Chronicles & Directories of Asia in and of itself as well as some methodological challenges and strategies of getting the most out of this special source material even without recourse to external primary and second sources. However, it is of course highly recommended that other source material be consulted in combination with the C&Ds to fill in some of the blanks and blindspots mentioned thus far and to bring out even more of the fascinating potential insights that can be found within this corpus, now made publicly available by the Europainstitut der Universität Basel, with a digital Foreign Residents database that opens up a number of new avenues for the researcher.

As these three concluding examples of the cross-referencing of source material briefly show, the value of the C&Ds stretches well beyond 1941 when the last edition went to print. It is such former foreign residents, whose lives we can follow through the volumes of the Chronicles and Directories of Asia, who were transformed overnight into enemy aliens, who are of immense interest to the current author. In the first case, ‘Mr. D. Finlay, caretaker’ at the Tientsin Branch of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, located at ’79, Victoria Road’ in the British Concession, was interned at Civil Assembly Center Weihsien throughout most of the Pacific War (CD-1939-416-A83). In a census of this significant Internment camp in Shandong Province, which made its way to the so-called ‘Special [War Problem’s] Division’ of the U.S. Department of State in late 1943, one can observe that Mr. Finlay, his wife and son, Douglas, are of little concern to the Department official who has placed a small tick next to the names of only the American nationals still interned in the North China camp. (‘Internees at the Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center, Weihsien, Shantung (September 15, 1943)’, file: ‘1 Weihsien’, A1-1357: ‘Subject Files, 1939-1955’, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives & Records Admin., College Park, MD. See p. 7).

Unlike these three British nationals, a second former resident of the treaty port was of much more interest during the height of the Second World War. ‘E. W. Torrey, manager’ of the Tientsin branch of the National City Bank of New York, just down the road at number 60 Victoria Rd., was briefly interned at C.A.C Weihsien, but then released and repatriated (in more than senses than one) on board the second American exchange in 1943 (CD-1941-276-A42). Despite actually contributing little to the 30-page Weihsien report written by former American internees immediately after their exchange, he was credited as one of the four authors and given the following description in the preface: ‘Mr. Torrey is an American who has continuously served the National City Bank of New York for thirty years. Prior to internment he was manager of the Tientsin branch of the bank’ (‘Internment of American and Allied Nationals at Weihsien, Shantung Province, China’, 11 Nov. 1943, file: ‘1 Weihsien’, A1-1357: ‘Subject Files, 1939-1955’, RG 59, NARA).

To end on a sweet note, one Miss Lelia Hinkley worked for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Peiping (Beijing) for almost 20 years, first appearing in that city’s directory in 1923 – but never appearing in the List of Foreign Residents (CD-1923-662-608). Late in the War and through various back channels, the Special Division of the State Dept. received word from Langdon B. Gilkey, who would later write a famous book about CAC Weihsien called Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women under Pressure (Harper & Row, 1966), that “Lelia Hinkley (formerly of Peking YWCA) helps [him] especially with deserts (sic!). Made ginger bread and flakey pastry date-rolls this week’ (‘Letter from Augusta Wagner, State Dept. Special Div., to Henry Cavendish, News Editor Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, 101 Fifth Avenue, New York’, 7 Apr. 1945, file: ‘4 Weihsien ‘45’, A1-1357: ‘Subject Files, 1939-1955’, RG 59, NARA). This much lighter anecdote involving Lelia Hinkley, along with the other two referenced above, is just the tip of the iceberg.