"A Life of Suspicion and Distrust": Race, Sino-American Relations, and the 1857 Poison Panic in Hong Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

On January 15, 1857, as the Second Opium War raged, bread distributed by the Esing bakery to Hong Kong’s Western community was doctored with a prodigious amount of arsenic. Few were seriously harmed, but the
American trader Augustine Heard Jr noted that the poisoning marked a great change in the Sino-American relationship. Although Americans were not involved in the war, Heard’s comments suggest that, influenced by rumors and panic, the Sino-American relationship deteriorated as
Americans increasingly saw themselves as members of a besieged white community. This article argues that the 1857 Hong Kong poison panic was a watershed moment that recalibrated how Americans in China perceived the Chinese, and that such panics entrenched racial barriers
between white and non-white colonial communities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPacific Historical Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Mar 2021

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