By George Thomas Staunton
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2010
Online Publication Date:March 2011
Original Publication Year:1856
Subjects: East Asian history , International relations and international organisations
Sir George Thomas Staunton (1781–1859), sinologist and politician, was a key figure in early nineteenth-century Anglo-Chinese relations. Staunton secured a post as a writer in the East India Company's factory in Canton in 1798 and was the only Englishman at the factory to study Chinese. He translated China's penal code and was promoted to chief of the Canton factory in 1816. He was a member of Britain's Amherst embassy to Peking in 1816–1817 to protest against mandarins' treatment of Canton merchants. The embassy failed to obtain an imperial interview but, despite being threatened with detention by the Chinese, Staunton insisted that the British should not submit to the emperor. Staunton returned to England in 1817, and served as a Tory MP between 1818 and 1852. Staunton's Memoirs, which were printed privately in 1856, provide a unique insight into nineteenth-century British perceptions of China.