Matthew W. MoscaJul 22, 2013
From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy
The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China
Stanford University Press 2013
Matthew Mosca's impressively researched and carefully structured new book maps the transformation of geopolitical worldviews in a crucial period of Qing and global history. From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China (Stanford University Press, 2013) traces a shift in the Qing state's external relations from a "frontier policy" at the height of the Qianlong Emperor's power in the middle of the eighteenth century, to a "foreign policy" by the time Qing scholars, officials, and rulers of the mid-nineteenth century perceived the weakness of their empire when faced with European rivals. At the crux of this change, Mosca demonstrates, was a major shift in the way the empire collected and interpreted information about the world both within and beyond Qing borders. With Qianlong's death, private Qing scholars who began to take an interest in the empire's administration transformed the geographical epistemology of the empire, creating a standardized geographical lexicon, a means of reconciling diverse place names in many different languages, and a way of comparing different local reports on major events that were impacting the state. Mosca illustrates this history by taking the Qing understanding of India (and British activities therein) as a case study, but the book is absolutely not limited to the case of India in the scope of its arguments and the potential reach of its conclusions about Qing geopolitics. Readers from beyond the field of Chinese studies will find useful discussions here of multiple Qing modes of cartography, geography, and lexicography that inform a broader historical epistemology of the early modern world. Enjoy!