Jonathan Bonsall

Jonathan Bonsall


BA in History, Arizona State University

Research Interests

Late Imperial China
Urban History
Global and East Asian Maritime History
The U.S. and China

Dissertation Topic

"Localism in a Global City: Late Imperial Guangzhou"

Faculty Advisors

Tonio Andrade
Mark Ravina


Do globalism and localism always conflict, or can they reinforce each other? Mid-Qing Guangzhou’s enforced monopoly over trade with Europe and the United States existed not only due to imperial caution toward the West, but as much because the Qing court wished to entice the city’s powerful Hang merchants into the imperial system, promoting social stability in historically restive Guangdong province. My research asks if Guangzhou’s status as China’s global port fostered a sense of distinction compared to other Chinese cities and, if so, to what extent and why.

I surmise that Guangzhou’s global connections encouraged local bonding variously among merchants, officials, and literati that allowed them to rationalize and live in a globalized community, making them uniquely well suited among Qing subjects to engage with the world outside of imperial borders. Guangzhou localism took numerous forms, from Hang merchants’ (十三行) state-backed dominance over world trade to the local publication of non-official maritime texts, a more common practice in the south than in the north of the late empire. My dissertation inquires of these texts if such local bonding was a reaction against globalism, a complement to it, or a mixture of both. We often contrast globalism to localism, but it is worthwhile to scrutinize this opposition as we develop our understanding of the interplay between early global commerce in the South China Sea and local communities in flux.

I’m fortunate to have conducted long term Chinese language study and historical research in both Taiwan (2012-13) and mainland China (2015-16.)