Mark T. JohnsonSep 6, 2022
The Middle Kingdom Under the Big Sky
A History of the Chinese Experience in Montana
University of Nebraska Press 2022
From the earliest days of non-Native settlement of Montana, when Chinese immigrants made up more than 10 percent of the territory’s population, Chinese pioneers played a key role in the region’s development. But this population, so crucial to Montana’s history, remains underrepresented in historical accounts, and popular attention to the Chinese in Montana tends to focus on sensational elements—exoticizing Chinese Montanans and distancing their lived experiences from our modern understanding. The Middle Kingdom Under the Big Sky: A History of the Chinese Experience in Montana (U of Nebraska Press, 2022) seeks to recover the stories of Montana’s Chinese population in their own words and deepen understanding of Chinese experiences in Montana by using a global lens.
Mark T. Johnson has mined several large collections of primary documents left by Chinese pioneers, translated into English here for the first time. These collections, spanning the 1880s through the 1950s, provide insight into the pressures the Chinese community faced—from family members back in China and from non-Chinese Montanans—as economic and cultural disturbances complicated acceptance of Chinese residents in the state. Through their own voices Johnson reveals the agency of Chinese Montanans in the history of the American West and China.
Mark T. Johnson is an associate professor in the Institute of Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame.
Troy A. Hallsell is the 341st Missile Wing Historian at Malmstrom AFB, MT. The opinions expressed in this podcast do not represent the 341st Missile Wing, United States Air Force, or Department of Defense.