Yellow Peril: The Rise of an Imperial Scare

Tom Harper
University of Surrey

The Yellow Peril – symbolised by British author Sax Rohmer’s Chinese mastermind Fu Manchu, the self-described ‘Yellow Peril incarnate in one man’ (1913) –  is possibly the most influential paradigm informing the image of China and East Asia in Western popular consciousness [1]. This image depicts China as an implacable oriental opponent of the Western world, a uniform mass with little or no individuality and prone to extreme cruelty. While the perception of the China threat, such as fears over a full blown Sino-American trade war or fears over Chinese ‘student spies’, might appear to be a more recent development, it actually follows a path long trod in the European imperial imaginarium and perpetuated through American strategies in Asia during the 20th century [2]. These same policies have played an important role in influencing and proliferating the Yellow Peril paradigm. Continue reading “Yellow Peril: The Rise of an Imperial Scare”

The Geopolitics of the American Revolution

War

Jeremy Black
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from the American Review of Books, Blogs, and Bull

The image is clear, the message obvious. Across a sun-kissed meadow, dappled with shade, lines of British soldiers, resplendent in red, move slowly forward, while brave American Patriots crouch behind trees and stone walls ready to blast these idiots to pieces. Frequently repeated on page and screen, the image has one central message: one side, the American, represented the future in warfare, and one side, the American, was bound to prevail. Thus, the war is readily located in both political and military terms. In each, it apparently represents the triumph of modernity and the start of a new age: of democracy and popular warfare. The linkage of military service and political rights therefore proved a potent contribution. Before these popular, national forces, the ancien régime, the old order, with its mercenaries, professionals, and, at sea, unmotivated conscripts, was bound to crumble, and its troops were doomed to lose. Thus, the political location of the struggle, in terms of the defining struggle for freedom, apparently helps locate the conflict as the start of modern warfare, while, considering the war in the latter light, helps fix our understanding of the political dimension. Definition in terms of modernity and modernization also explains success, as most people assume that the future is bound to prevail over the past.

In making the war an apparently foregone conclusion, this approach has several misleading consequences. First, it allows most historians of the period to devote insufficient attention to the fighting and, instead, to focus on traditional (constitution-framing) and modish (gender et al) topics, neglecting the central point about the importance of war in American history: no victory, no independence, no constitution, no newish society. Second, making the British defeat inevitable gravely underrates the Patriot (not American, as not all Americans fought the British) achievement. Third, making British defeat inevitable removes the sense of uncertainty in which contemporaries made choices. Continue reading “The Geopolitics of the American Revolution”