Strangers on the Western Front

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 2011 - History - 336 pages

During World War I, Britain and France imported workers from their colonies to labor behind the front lines. The single largest group of support labor came not from imperial colonies, however, but from China. Xu Guoqi tells the remarkable story of the 140,000 Chinese men recruited for the Allied war effort.

These laborers, mostly illiterate peasants from north China, came voluntarily and worked in Europe longer than any other group. Xu explores China’s reasons for sending its citizens to help the British and French (and, later, the Americans), the backgrounds of the workers, their difficult transit to Europe—across the Pacific, through Canada, and over the Atlantic—and their experiences with the Allied armies. It was the first encounter with Westerners for most of these Chinese peasants, and Xu also considers the story from their perspective: how they understood this distant war, the racism and suspicion they faced, and their attempts to hold on to their culture so far from home.

In recovering this fascinating lost story, Xu highlights the Chinese contribution to World War I and illuminates the essential role these unsung laborers played in modern China’s search for a new national identity on the global stage.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction
1
China Britain France and the Laborers as Soldiers Strategy
10
2 The Recruitment and Europe an Odyssey of the Men for Britain and France
38
3 The Hidden History of the Secret Canadian Path
55
4 Work
80
5 Treatment and Perceptions
103
Chinese Lives in Europe
126
7 American Soldiers and Chinese Laborers
152
10 A Fusion of Civilizations
220
Conclusion
240
Huimin Contract with the French Government
245
British Contract
251
Notes
253
Selected Glossary
305
Selected Bibliography
307
Acknowledgments
325

8 The Association Men and Chinese Laborers
174
Students as Teachers and Vice Versa
198

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2011)

Xu Guoqi is Professor of History at the University of Hong Kong.

Bibliographic information