Famine in China and the Missionary: Timothy Richard as Relief Administrator and Advocate of National Reform, 1876-1884
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“The most disastrous famine in recent Chinese history took place between 1876 and 1879, afflicting all five provinces of North China [Shantung, Chihli, Honan, Shensi, and Shansi] and claiming no fewer than nine and a half million human lives [….] The hunger, pestilence, and violence brought about by the famine presented an overwhelming challenge to government and foreign relief efforts [.…] Despite these obstacles, however, Timothy Richard of the Baptist Missionary Society succeeded in organizing an effective, systematic scheme of relief distribution in several districts of Shantung and Shansi. His work on the scene in turn stimulated the foreign community to organize the China Famine Relief Fund Committee, and his method of rendering aid set the pattern of foreign almsgiving which did much to ease the suffering of thousands [….]
“This study analyzes Richard’s role in the North China famine and evaluates his contribution to the relief effort. It concentrates on Richard’s initial distribution attempts in Shantung, 1876-1877, and his more extensive activities in Shansi, 1877-1879. By comparing Richard’s relief measures with those of the Ch’ing government as well as with those of the foreign distributors supported by the China Famine Relief Fund Committee, the study attempts to describe the various approaches to the problem of famine relief and to illuminate the many difficulties encountered by Chinese and foreigners in the relief work.
“However, it is not only Richard’s relief program that must be considered. The impact of the famine on the subsequent course of Richard’s missionary career forms an important part of the whole famine story. For Richard emerged from the calamity convinced that he must urge China’s leaders to eradicate the basic causes of famine and similar natural disasters and to elevate the physical as well as the spiritual welfare of the rural masses. In the years during and immediately following the Great Famine, Richard evolved the basis of a broad scheme of national reform which aimed at China’s modernization for the purpose of rooting out the poverty and misery of Chinese life. The study will assess the early reform proposals which Richard put forth between 1876 and 1884, the year he returned to England on furlough. The groundwork of his reform ideas will be examined along with his actual attempts to promote national reform and economic developments, from his first conversations with Chinese officials to his decision to appeal to the Chinese literati at large through the Chinese-language press.”
--from the Introduction.
East Asian Research Center, Harvard University
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Bohr, Paul Richard. Famine in China and the Missionary: Timothy Richard as Relief Administrator and Advocate of National Reform, 1876-1884. Cambridge, Mass: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University; distributed by Harvard University Press, 1972.