While most knowledge about China was transmitted through Jesuit missionaries and disseminated in the European urban centers, this particular publication has a different background. The dedication, to the Countess of Macartney and Lady Staunton, give us a clue about its provenance. Jane Stuart, Countess of Macartney, the daughter of the British Prime Minister, was married to George Earl Macartney, who was the first British envoy to China, charged with establishing a British Embassy in China in 1792 to improve trade relations with the Far East; and Lady Staunton was married to Sir George Staunton, a botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society, who served as Secretary to the Mission in China.
The other names associated with this publication–Dr. Scott, Hüttner, even John Barrow–were all associated in one way or another with the British Embassy in China.
The Macartney Embassy, as it became known, was a tragic diplomatic failure. While some claim that the cause for its failure lay in Macartney‘s refusal to kowtow before Emperor Qianlong and others argue that it lay in China‘s insistence on ancient protocol, it seems that a wider network of cultural misperceptions and mutually incompatible worldviews was at fault.
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The Arrangement as Souvenir
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