Shanghai Panic, 1883: World Markets, Semicolonial Finance, & China's First Empirewide Financial Crisis


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation Travel Grants to China




My dissertation is a study of the Shanghai Panic of 1883, China’s first empirewide financial collapse. More than a narrative, I use the panic as a window into lasting economic change brought on by China’s forced opening to world markets and foreign banking after the Opium Wars, fully felt only from the 1870s. The project’s core is an examination of interbank lending between the three main financial institutions in late-Qing China: qianzhuang (native banks), piaohao (remittance houses), and British imperial banks, operating out of China’s forcibly opened ports. Interbank lending in a semi-colonial political economy financed China's growing domestic and foreign trade, and ultimately sustained the speculative borrowing and investing that pushed up real estate, commodity, and stock prices to unreasonable heights in 1883.