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Edmund Backhouse in the Long View of History

A Sinica Podcast

(Wikimedia Commons)

Edmund Backhouse, the 20th century Sinologist, long-time Beijing resident, and occasional con-artist, is perhaps best known for his incendiary memoirs, which not only distorted Western understanding of Chinese history for more than 50 years, but also included what in retrospect can only be seen as patently fictitious stories of erotic encounters between the British Baronet and the Empress Dowager Cixi.

This week on Sinica, we are delighted to be joined by Derek Sandhaus of Earnshaw Books, who has recently produced an abridged edition of Backhouse’s memoirs for the Hong Kong publishing house. As an expert on the facts and fictions of Edmund Backhouse, Derek joins us for a discussion of what is real and less-than-real in Backhouse’s deathbed reminiscences, and what we can and should learn about Qing-era China from his memoirs.