Chinese History during the Late Qing Dynasty through Illustrations in French Newspapers

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Kampol Piyasirikul
Thanawit Kraiperm


This article aims to study Chinese history during the late Qing dynasty through illustrations published in French newspapers from 1891 to 1911. Since the authors believe that studying the history of a nation should not only use information from the perspectives of "the nation’s insiders", but also needs research into materials that present the perspectives of "the nation’s outsiders" in order to fill in the gaps in history as much as possible, this research examines how French newspapers reflect their views on Chinese history through illustrations. The hypothesis of the study was that French newspapers would tend to present their perspectives on the history of Sino-French relations and the history of Sino-Imperial superpowers relations specifically.

Based on historical research methods, the authors gathered primary sources, analysed the content of Chinese history and recovered French perspectives from the newspaper illustration collection book series The Lost History of China in the West: Chinese History during the Late Qing Dynasty 1891-1911 Recorded by French Newspaper Le Petit Journal. The authors then used a content analysis method to categorize the contents of the illustrations, and a descriptive analysis method to describe the contents of Chinese history from the illustrations in French newspapers.

The research results show that there are a total of 112 illustrations related to Chinese history during the late Qing dynasty. The contents of the illustrations appearing in French newspapers can be divided into three groups. The first group is the history of Sino-Imperial superpowers relations, comprising 64 illustrations. From the perspectives of French journalists, these illustrations reflect the events of the First Sino-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Eight-Nation Allied Forces invasion of China, and the Russo-Japanese War, etc. The second group is the history of Sino-French relations. Although these illustrations were published by French newspapers, only 26 illustrations present events related to China and France, depicting the violent conflicts between the two countries during the late Qing dynasty. However, the authors also found a third group which lay outside our hypothetical limits, comprising 22 illustrations related only to China. Most of them reflected the revolutionary movements and disasters in China as well as presenting images of some significant historical figures in the Qing imperial court. Overall, the authors have found that these illustrations in French newspapers reflected their perspective that China was the party that had not only caused conflict with foreign countries, but also made conflicts escalate into violent collisions. In contrast, these illustrations show that France and other imperial superpowers were the victims, and that therefore their use of forces to safeguard their interests had been just.

Keywords: Chinese History; Late Qing Dynasty; Newspaper; France

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