Robert Bickers is Professor of History and Director of the Historical Photographs of China Project at the University of Bristol. He is the author of The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (2011), Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai (2003), and Britain in China (1999). Bickers specializes in modern China, the history of colonialism, and in particular that of the British Empire and its relations with China and Shanghai. His forthcoming book will be Getting Stuck in for Shanghai: Putting the Kibosh on the Kaiser from the Bund.
After 1914, between tiffin and a day at the race track, British expatriates in Shanghai enjoyed a life far removed from the horrors of the First World War. Shanghai’s status as a treaty port – with its foreign concessions home to expatriates from every corner of the globe – made it the most cosmopolitan city in Asia. The city’s inhabitants on either side of the conflict continued to mix socially after the outbreak of war, the bond amongst foreign nationals being almost as strong as that between countrymen. But as news of the slaughter spread to the Far East, and in particular with the sinking of the Lusitania, their ambivalence turned to antipathy.