Kowtow: Georgian Britain, Imperial China and the Irishman Who Introduced Them

Author(s): Eoin McDonnell

ISBN: 9781781558218
$23.00 $33.00
A history of the first meeting of Britain and China, and its impact on China’s relationship with the West today.
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  • The first standalone account of the Macartney mission in thirty years

  • Draws on the experience of the Macartney mission to shed light on the realities of modern China’s relationship with the West

  • Beautifully illustrated with many rare and unpublished images

  • Now, more than ever, events in China affect the entire world and we will all benefit from knowing more about this great power

In 1793, George Macartney introduced two of the leading empires of his age, heralding one of the greatest power shifts in history.

Kowtow: Georgian Britain, Imperial China and the Irishman Who Introduced Them tells the story of Macartney, Britain’s first ambassador to China, and his career that spanned the globe, from the Caribbean to India, from Brazil to Indonesia, and then finally through China to Peking.

Kowtow explains why Macartney’s embassy was needed and examines the nature and personalities of the ambassador and his imperial host, Emperor Qianlong. Along the way, there are duels, battles, imprisonment, diplomatic negotiations, disease, nomads and a one-legged penguin.

We journey with Macartney and his colleagues to the gates of the Forbidden City, to Peking’s Summer Palace, over the Great Wall and into Qianlong’s summer hunting grounds in Rehe. The story of the Macartney mission also brings significant lessons in the importance of diplomatic engagement and trade relations.

The impasse that resulted from Macartney’s refusal to agree to expected court ceremony still causes great reverberations today, and as a result, his mission represents one of the major missed opportunities in history and a symbol of tension between China and the West.

BOOK ISBN 9781781558218
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 208 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 11 February 2021
ILLUSTRATIONS 25 colour illustrations



Eoin McDonnell is a former Director of the Ireland China Institute and previously handled Chinese investment for IDA Ireland, the Irish Government’s investment promotion agency. He holds an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies from Oxford, a BA in History and Political Science from Trinity College, Dublin, and was formerly Senior Researcher on China at the IIEA. He now works for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs.