Event Details

WHAT: An RASBJ online conversation: "The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire" with author and historian Henrietta Harrison and Jeremiah Jenne, followed by Q&A

WHEN: Wednesday, April 20 from 7:00-8:00 PM Beijing Time

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: The 1793 British embassy to China, and Lord George Macartney's fraught encounter with the Qianlong emperor, have been viewed as a clash of cultures fueled by the Eastern disinterest in the West. In The Perils of Interpreting, Henrietta Harrison presents a more nuanced picture, shifting the historical lens to focus on Macartney's two interpreters at that meeting—Li Zibiao and George Thomas Staunton. Who were these two men? How did they intervene in the exchanges that they mediated? And what did these exchanges mean for them? Harrison reassesses a pivotal moment in relations between China and Britain. She shows that there were Chinese who were familiar with the West, but growing tensions endangered those who embraced both cultures and would eventually culminate in the Opium Wars. Professor Harrison joins historian and RASBJ Council Member Jeremiah Jenne for a virtual conversation and discussion uncovering the lives of two overlooked figures and offering an empathic argument for cross-cultural understanding in a connected world.

MEMBERS ONLY: This event is free and exclusively for members of RASBJ and partner RAS branches. If you know someone who wishes to join RASBJ to attend this event, please ask them to sign up at https://rasbj.org/membership/ at least 72 hours beforehand.

HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT: Please click "Register" or "I Will Attend" and follow the instructions. After successful registration, you'll receive a confirmation email with a link to join the event. If you seem not to have received it, please check your spam folder. Members of partner RAS branches: Please register at least 72 hours in advance to allow time for membership verification. You will receive two emails from us, the first confirming receipt of your registration request and the second confirming your registration, with a link to join the event. Please check your spam folder to ensure you see all RASBJ emails.


  • Henrietta Harrison (Professor of Modern Chinese Studies at Oxford University)

    Henrietta Harrison

    Professor of Modern Chinese Studies at Oxford University

    Henrietta Harrison is Professor of Modern Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College. Before Oxford, she taught at the University of Leeds and then at Harvard. Her previous books include The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man’s Life in a North China Village 1857-1942 (Stanford University Press, 2005) and The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village (University of California Press, 2013).

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  • Jeremiah Jenne (Proprietor at Beijing by Foot)

    Jeremiah Jenne

    Proprietor at Beijing by Foot


    Jeremiah is a writer and historian based in Beijing since 2002. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He is the proprietor of Beijing by Foot, which organizes historic walking tours of Beijing's most famous sites and less-traveled byways, and leads workshops on history, culture, and cultural adaptation for students, embassies, companies, and community groups. Jeremiah is also the co-host of the podcast Barbarians at the Gate.

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