Nield, Robert, “Beyond the Bund: Life in the Outports”, in Brunero, Donna, Stephanie Villalta Puig eds. Life in Treaty Port China and Japan. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Catherine L. Phipps, Empires on the Waterfront: Japan’s Ports and Power, 1858–1899 (BRILL, 2020)
Nield’s chapter does a brilliant job in bringing to life the lived experience of life for those stationed in the ‘outports’ in China. By taking the picture further than the ‘big cities’, Neild shows what life was like for those in more remote areas, and in doing so reveals some of the problems faced by the British in the foundation and running of treaty ports. He notes that these locations were chosen due to the belief that “so many millions of potential customers must surely lead to profitable business” . He goes on to show just how misguided this belief turned out to be, stating that “there were a number of consuls who could easily vie with one another for the dubious title of ‘loneliest member of the service’” .
In contrast, Phipps shows how difference the situation was in Japan. She argues for the deliberate, strategic choice of ‘Special Treaty Ports’, which allowed Japan to retain a far higher degree of control over port locations than was the case in China. Firstly, Phipps makes clear the difference between a treaty port and a special trading port. The distinction, in her words, is that a Special Trading Port was not bound by existing treaty port legislation, and thus, crucially, they were not subject to extraterritoriality .
Comparing Nield and Phipps therefore paints very different pictures of China and Japan. Where Nield focuses almost entirely on primary sources to show the experience of the British stationed abroad, Phipps instead uses a wealth of secondary literature and archival material to chart the foundation and growth of both treaty ports and special trading ports across Japan. Both methods have merit. Neild is able to draw on the human element and show what daily life was like, while Phipps is more clinical in her approach. It is beyond the scope here to fully debate which method has more merit, if either. There is also the issue of language to discuss, as Nield uses no sources from the interior, focusing entirely on English writings, while Phipps draws heavily from Japanese archives. The issue of translation and sources is obviously a hurdle for anyone with an interest in these areas, but if comparing these two works proves anything, it is how effectively these limitations can be overcome.
 Brunero, Donna, Stephanie Villalta Puig eds. Life in Treaty Port China and Japan. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Ch 4 “Beyond the Bund: Life in the Outports”, pg. 79.
 Ibid, pg. 80.
 Catherine L. Phipps, Empires on the Waterfront: Japan’s Ports and Power, 1858–1899 (BRILL, 2020). Introduction pp1- 16, Ch 1 Special Trading Ports, pg. 21