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Gerson, Jacob J. (1966) Horatio Nelson Lay: His Role in British Relations With China 1849-1865. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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An attempt has been made in this study to trace the background, and China career, of Horatio Nelson Lay, an Englishman, who began his public service in the British consular establishment in China and who concluded it in the service of the Ch'ing Imperial government. He achieved notoriety, successively, as British Inspector in the Shanghai foreign customs administration inaugurated in 1854, as interpreter-negotiator in the treaty settlements of Tientsin and Shanghai of 1858, as first Inspector-General of the Imperial Maritime Custom Service and as one of the principals in the development of a European-Chinese naval force (the Lay-Osborn Flotilla), which was disbanded when rejected by the Ch'ing government in 1863. Lay's dismissal followed immediately after this event. The study discloses that the activities, while carrying out the functions related to these responsibilities, placed him in a key position to influence various aspects of British relations with China during the period. A thesis, based on evaluations of his influence has been formulated, which focusses on an analysis of the nature of his dual role as a servant both of British (occident-oriented) and Ch'ing (Confucian-oriented) interests. The re-examination of evidence previously available and of newly discovered evidence provides the basis for a re-evaluation of his career. The principal conclusions conveyed by the investigation, analysis and evaluation of the larger body of evidence fall into two categories. As for the direct effects of his influence, except for his contributions to the consolidation of the foreign Inspectorate customs administration, the influence he himself claimed, as well as that ascribed to him by his contemporaries, has been overstated. As for the indirect effects, his contribution to the process of "dialog", a pre-requisite for achieving effective intercourse, was appreciable.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:22

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