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Breaking with the PastThe Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China$
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Hans van de Ven

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231137386

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231137386.001.0001

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Robert Hart’s Panopticon

Robert Hart’s Panopticon

(p.64) Chapter Two Robert Hart’s Panopticon
Breaking with the Past

Hans van de Ven

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how Robert Hart built up the Service in the decade after he became Inspector General. Hart made the Customs Service into a disciplined frontier regime, exploiting the spaces between the Qing Empire and the expanding European empires, the chaotic conditions that resulted from China's mid-nineteenth-century rebellions, and opportunities created by the introduction of new trade systems and navigational technologies. Hart turned the Service into a widely respected organization, involved in taxation as well as diplomacy, finance, scholarship, meteorology, and the management of China's maritime sphere. A good example of the Service's ability to take hold of new functions was its construction of lighthouses along the Chinese coast. Lighthouses were important to the transport revolution of the second half of the nineteenth century, but they were also symbols of modern engineering and management with complex political and cultural meanings.

Keywords:   Chinese Maritime Customs Service, Robert Hart, Inspector General, China, lighthouses

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