Ships, Savages, and States: the Rover and the Qing on the Sea
In March 1867 an American barque by the name of Rover shipwrecked off the coast of southern Taiwan. All fourteen people on board made it successfully ashore. A few days later one of them reached a British consulate to tell a story about a beachfront encounter with a band of aborigines – the “raw savages” (shengfan 生番) who were believed to be headhunters. A young American consul embarked upon an urgent search for the lost. Qing response to his call for help was tardy though not entirely without empathy. Nonetheless the consul called in U.S. naval vessels of the Asiatic Squadron.
This talk examines the Rover episode as a window into a significant moment in Qing maritime governance in the 19th century. It is part of a broader project that takes the Rover episode as a metaphor of Sino-Western encounter. And it is also about the headhunters and the lifting of boundaries on their territories when a larger ship-centered regime demanded a rewriting of the rules of engagement on the ground.
This event is part of the East Asian Studies Program coffee-hour lecture series.