Category Archives: Spring 2008

China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980

Collections Highlight

Luo Zhou

China: Trade, Politics, and Culture

From England’s first diplomatic mission to China in the late 18th century to the rise of the People’s Republic in the twentieth century, European and American government representatives, missionaries, business people and tourists living and working in China documented their activities and observations, creating an invaluable record of China’s evolution over two centuries into a modern power. Many of the materials compiled by these visitors, together with rare periodicals, color paintings, maps, photographs, and drawings, are preserved in London at the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library. Holdings from these libraries supplemented by sources from several other libraries in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States, including Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, are the basis for a newly published digital collection, China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980, which the Duke Libraries have acquired.

Chinese lettersThe collection offers accessible and authoritative English-language sources that give an account of China’s interaction with the West over time. Because the collection is available online, it will be especially attractive for use in the classroom. In addition, the collection’s breadth and depth make it an ideal resource for projects on almost any aspect of Chinese history during the two hundred years that are covered. Recognizing the collection’s potential value to students and China scholars, Duke faculty members encouraged the Libraries to purchase it. History professor Dominic M. Sachsenmaier says in his recommendation,

“This database can be a superb research and teaching device. The visual material is wonderful, and the interactive maps are some of the best ones in the field of Chinese history that I have seen thus far. In addition, the English translations of many texts will be extremely helpful to students. With this database, undergraduate students will be able to produce a kind of research papers, which they could not have possibly written before.”

The collection’s riches include key documents from the Chinese Maritime Customs Service as well as the original reports of the English diplomatic missions of 1792 and 1816. There are letters that detail events of the first Opium War, survivors’ descriptions of the Boxer War, and personal diaries and photographs that open the door on family life. Extensive and fully searchable runs of periodicals such as The China Recorder and Light and Life Magazine describe the lives of missionaries and report on their work in China.

Chinese stamps

In addition to the collection’s textual material, there are more than 400 color paintings, maps, and drawings by English and Chinese artists, as well as countless photographs, sketches and ephemeral items that depict Chinese people, places, customs and events. The graphic material can be browsed and searched, with a large-screen viewer permitting close examination of each image. The interactive map facilitates searches of the collection by geographical region. Zoomable province maps can be viewed simultaneously with documents, making it possible to trace events and journeys mentioned in the texts.

The abundance of images and wealth of English-language primary sources comprising China: Trade, Politics and Culture 1793-1980 will enable students to undertake ambitious research projects, many of which would have been impossible in the past because of the language barrier. This remarkable digital collection also enhances the Duke Libraries’ holdings in modern Chinese history, which is a collecting focus.

Luo Zhou is the Chinese Studies Librarian for the Duke University Libraries.

Tea and coins

Events – Spring 2008

Cheerleaders - photo courtesy of Kate Torgovnick

April 4

Cheerleaders - photo courtesy of Kate Torgovnick

Journalist and first-time author Kate Torgovnick reads and signs her new book, Cheer!, a journey into the world of competitive cheerleading. Joyce Carol Oates has called the book “a spirited, fascinating, at times disturbing and always absorbing book.” Kate is a graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University and a former associate editor at Jane magazine. She is now a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in The New York Times. The Duke cheerleaders will join Kate for her reading at the library. Friday, 4 April, 4pm, the terrace between the Perkins and Bostock libraries

April 11

Don Eagle - photo courtesy of Brenda Neece

Rare Music in the Rare Book Room: Cornet Cornucopia, featuring Don Eagle with Deborah Hollis. Don Eagle, Duke faculty member, world class trumpet player, and member of the North Carolina Symphony, will perform on several cornets from the Eddy Collection, which is one of the Duke University Musical Instrument Collections. He will be assisted by pianist Deborah Hollis. Friday, 11 April, Perkins Library Biddle Rare Book Room


April 16

Courtesy of Melissa DelbridgeMelissa Delbridge will read and sign Family Bible, a collection of her short stories just published by the University of Iowa Press. Reynolds Price, James B. Duke Professor of English, says, “Melissa Delbridge’s memories of her early life are dead-accurate, hilarious, and tragic and will surely prove enduring as a guide to the Deepest South—a place and a culture that continue to prove alarmingly vital. I mean to keep this book handy, for pleasure and real guidance.” Melissa has published essays and short stories in the Antioch Review, Southern Humanities Review, Third Coast, and other journals. She is an archivist at Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Wednesday, 16 April, 4:30pm, Perkins Library, Biddle Rare Book Room

Courtesy of Melissa Delbridge

A Virtual Photo Album of Duke Favorites

Happy travelers, photo buffs and grandparents aren’t the only ones who have discovered Flickr. The staff of the Duke University Archives also chose to use the popular photo sharing website when they created an online collection of some of their photographs.

West Campus postcard

Old campus photoThe Archives staff assembled the virtual photo collection for the convenience of the Duke community, alumni, and others who use historical images of the University and campus life in brochures and other publications, websites, publicity, and research. Dubbed the “Duke Yearlook,” the Archives site is a longitudinal yearbook organized by decades. Several thousand images the Archives staff have scanned for researchers over the past several years were the starting point for the site, which presents both student life and campus scenes. The staff will continue to scan and add images to the site to insure that every decade is represented in various categories.

Old campus photoThe Archives staff hopes to fill gaps in the photographic record of the decades with images donated by alumni who visit the site. Site visitors are also invited to identify themselves in pictures and add comments and recollections.

There are several ways to find the Duke images on Flickr: search for Duke Yearlook or Duke-related images on Google; go directly to and search for Duke images to find the site; or follow the link from the Archives homepage at

Next up for the Archives?—The staff plans to post and/or enhance Wikipedia entries related to Duke history and biographies of Duke leaders.

Old campus photo