The Chinese labour corps on the western front: management, discipline, and crime

Masters Thesis

Burrows, P. 2018. The Chinese labour corps on the western front: management, discipline, and crime. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsBurrows, P.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMA

This dissertation examines the events surrounding the formation and deployment of the Chinese Labour Corps during the Great War. It covers the period from 1917 to 1922, during which Britain recruited around 100,000 Chinese labourers to offset its severe manpower shortages. In lieu of the fact that the Chinese Labour Corps has been relatively overlooked in histories on the First World War, the dissertation seeks to extend the limited amount of research available.

It starts by contextualising the corps in the international framework of the early twentieth century. Next, it assesses a contemporary view, that the Chinese labourers were disobedient, and prone to criminal behaviour. It highlights evidence that British management methods were largely responsible for disciplinary issues, and critically examines the perception of the Chinese as prone to dishonesty and criminal behaviour. Having done this, it also highlights the fact that the labourers were, in many cases, victims of crimes. In an attempt to counterbalance the negative views of the Chinese workers offered by a number of primary sources, an illustration of some of the most positive examples of Chinese contributions to the Allied war effort follows.

The dissertation concludes with a final investigation into the philosophy, morality, and legality of British management techniques. It is hoped that this investigation will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Great War, and also to Anglo-Chinese history, race relations, and the British Empire more broadly.

KeywordsChinese labour corps; First World War; Anglo-Chinese history
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Publication process dates
Deposited03 Apr 2019
Output statusUnpublished
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