|Abstract as per original application
In 1842, Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. British Admiralty law began to be enforced in the Crown Colony under the Vice-Admiralty Courts Act 1863 and the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890. The Treaty of Nanking also established five treaty ports at Shanghai, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Fuzhou and Xiamen. The British Supreme Court for China was established in Shanghai in 1865. It had the jurisdiction to apply the British Admiralty law and commercial law to resolve a whole range of shipping disputes concerning maritime, insurance and commercial matters. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain heard appeals from the Hong Kong Supreme Court and the British Supreme Court for China.
In this project, we will review a significant number of reported legal cases together with correspondence and private papers found in original legal archives. The applicable British legislation such as the Merchant Shipping Act (1854), Bill of Lading Act (1855), Bill of Exchange Act (1882), Sale of Goods Act (1893) and Marine Insurance Act (1906) will also be examined to see how they filled a legal vacuum caused by the scanty and primitive coverage of these important legal principles in the Great Qing Legal Code (1644-1912).
We will trace the establishment and administration of British Admiralty law in Hong Kong and other treaty ports, and test the hypothesis that the application of British Admiralty law contributed significantly to the removal of the risks, barriers and uncertainties encountered by foreign merchants trading with China. We argue that the original founding purpose of Hong Kong and the treaty ports in the 19th century was to reduce international trade risks for the British Empire and its merchants.
This project will advance our understanding of the role played by British Admiralty law in shaping the economic development of modern China as free trade began to flourish along with China’s opening up to the outside world. This project will also allow scholars to better comprehend the complex history of the Sino-British economic relations and British colonial justice in general.