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Supported Event | Far East to Near North – Frederic Eggleston’s Chongqing Odyssey 1941-44

05-12-17 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Far East to Near North: 

Frederic Eggleston’s Chongqing Odyssey, 1941-1944

William Sima, ANU

Frederic Eggleston (1875-1954) was one of Australia’s most prolific and original international relations theorists of the first half of the twentieth century. He attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as an advisor to Prime Minister William Hughes, and during the interwar years advocated for closer ties between Australia and our region, principally as a member Institute of Pacific Relations, and the Australian Institute of International Affairs, which Eggleston cofounded in 1933. He was appointed as the first Australian Minister (similar to an Ambassador) to China in July 1941, arriving in the wartime capital, Chongqing, just two months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour.

Finding Australia sidelined on big questions of diplomacy and wartime strategy, Eggleston gravitated to China’s community of scholars, whom he described as his ‘line of approach’ to understanding the country. In Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming and elsewhere across the ‘great wartime hinterland’ 大后方, he mixed with such figures as Feng Youlan 冯友兰, Xu Beihong 徐悲鸿, Mei Yiqi 梅贻琦, Luo Zhongshu 罗忠恕, and the British historian of Chinese science, Joseph Needham. He began hatching plans — detailed in numerous diplomatic dispatches — for postwar educational and cultural cooperation between Australia and Asia; his ideas were formative both to the first Australian school for Sinology, based at the ANU in Canberra from 1950, and to the original Colombo Plan.

With original newsreels, photographs and archival documents, I tell the story of Frederic Eggleston’s three-year tenure in Chongqing and describe why his ideas remain important today. While our vague and intermittent enthusiasms for the ‘Asian Century’ and ‘China literacy’ are driven primarily by money, it pays to return to a time before such cliché jargon, and to a thinker whose line of approach to our region began with cultural empathy and the life of the mind.

Speaker bio

William Sima is a tutor at the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific, and a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World. His research focuses on the intellectual history of modern China and Australia-China diplomatic history. He co-edited, with Christopher Rea, China Heritage Quarterly nos. 30-31 (June-September 2012), a special issue focusing on the 1930s political and literary journal, The China Critic 中国评论周报. His first book, China & ANU: Diplomats, Adventurers, Scholars 学者、行者与使者:澳大利亚国立大学的中国缘 (ANU Press, 2015) is a history of the first Australian diplomatic legations in wartime Chongqing and postwar Nanjing, and the founding of Sinology in Australia from the late 1940s. William’s writing has appeared in The China Story online blog, in the Dow Jones newswire China Realtime Report, and in The Wall Street Journal, The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald.

Time & Date: 7:00PM – 8:00PM, Wednesday 6 December
Location: Bookworm Chengdu, 2-7 East Yujie Street, 28 Section 4 South Renmin Road, Chengdu
Cost: Free entry


8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Bookworm Chengdu
2-7 Yujie East Road
Chengdu, Sichuan China
(028) 85520177


Bookworm Chengdu
(028) 85520177