The Global Coolie Trade between China and Latin America in the Nineteenth Century: Its Origins and Collapse
27 Feb 2018, 17:30 to 27 Feb 2018, 19:15
Latin American History
IHR Peter Marshall Room, N204, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Rudolph Ng, Birkbeck, University of London
This paper details how two opposing coalitions of international agents fought for thirty years, one to continue, the other to abolish the Chinese coolie trade to Latin America. As abolitionism gained strength in the early 1800s, owners of mines, plantations, and other industries in Latin America began looking with some urgency for a substitute for their African slaves. Failing to find sufficient workers in the Americas or Europe to fill the growing labor shortage, they turned their attention to China, where they found large numbers ready to take on manual work. The result was a massive growth in the so-called coolie trade, by which, from 1847 to 1874, more than 250,000 indentured laborers from Southern China were shipped to Latin America. While some planters, officials, and diplomats in Spanish America argued for the continued import of Chinese coolies, others sought to defeat this human trafficking and in the end prevailed. An assessment of previously unexamined documents in China, Peru, Cuba, and Chile calls for revising the historiography of the coolie story, which has always been interpreted through a nationalistic lens in both Chinese and Latin American scholarship.
Rudolph Ng teaches modern Chinese and global history at Birkbeck College, University of London, having previously taught at his alma maters, the University of Cambridge and Heidelberg University. His research interests lie in Chinese diaspora in the larger context of global migration. Currently, he is working on Chinese migration to Latin America, specifically the transpacific coolie trade from China to Cuba and Peru in the nineteenth century and subsequent re-migration to other countries in Latin America during the twentieth century.
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