Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911), Inspector General of the Imperial Customs, Peking, 1863-1908, is a key figure in China’s 19th century history and its foreign relations with the West. He was the only Westerner in the latter half of the nineteenth century to occupy an official post in the metropolitan bureaucracy, a position which gave him daily access to China’s highest officials in the Grand Council and Zongli Yamen. He built the first modern institution in China, the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs (CIMC), played a crucial role in China’s imperial politics, and significantly influenced its internal reform and diplomatic policy. It is impossible to write a history of the late Qing Empire without reference to Hart. The Hart Collection at Queen’s University Belfast is a key source of information about Sir Robert Hart and the Qing period.
The project includes the transcription of much of the Hart collection, with key elements to be made available online. Transcriptions and images from the collection can be viewed here: http://digitalcollections.qub.ac.uk/digital-image-gallery/hart/
Dr Emma Reisz is currently engaged in research on this collection. The School has an established collaboration with the Institute of Modern History in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing and has hosted visiting researchers Dr Zhang Zhiyong, Prof. Cui Zhihai and Ms Jia Yajuan, who have travelled to Belfast to work on the Hart collection. Scholars from other Schools at Queen's are also collaborating on the project, including Dr Richard O'Leary of the School of Sociology.