Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hay, Carla

Second Advisor

McMahon, Timothy

Third Advisor

Meissner, Daniel


On January 16, 1841, Lord Palmerston wrote to Admiral Elliot of the British Navy concerning Britain's ongoing dispute with China. The Chinese, in Palmerston's opinion, had an irksome national character; nevertheless, he believed they were no different than the British or any other race in their basic humanity. They would attempt to protect their interests or shrink in fear if shown the power of the British Navy, or what Palmerston called "a strong hand." The "strong hand" rhetoric of Palmerston, the epitome of John Bullism, should not strike any student of British imperialism as surprising; however, his allusion to the sameness of humanity contradicts current interpretations of colonial and imperial relationships in the nineteenth century. In a field dominated by studies of the creation of difference and "the other," Palmerston's evaluation of the nature of man suggests that while he perceived the Chinese as culturally dissimilar, he still believed they acted within a set of laws basic to all humans. Palmerston, unlike modern-day historians, did not focus on difference in responding to Chinese actions; instead, he emphasized the importance of understanding the similarities of humans and their responses to aggression...



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