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History (Policing ports cities)

Policing ports cities during the colonial era : Tianjin, Shanghai and Istanbul : interaction between western and oriental police forces, 1860-1945

The research project is under the co-supervision of 
 Ruan Qinghua (ECNU) and & Christine Cornet (IAO) (History, Université de Lyon2)


In the past 20 years, the Research Center on Shanghai History (ECNU) and the Lyons Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO) have established close cooperative relations : joint projects, joint publications, joints conferences, as well as the co-training of graduate students have become significant and regular markers of increasingly close relationships. On this basis we hope to further co-promote Shanghai and Tianjin as centers of new urban history and social order connected with others research centers.

The project

This project will focus on the experience of French police system in three « colonial » ports cities : Shanghai, Tianjin and Istanbul and their interaction with the local police system.

Recent monographs on colonial police have offered new perspectives on the evolution of western colonial presence in Eastern countries. After years of academic neglect, colonial policing has also attracted increasing attention. The comparative studies emerged in a perspective of « Globalising british Policy. New historical insights on colonial security strategies and on their postcolonial vestiges testify to the dynamism of this field of research. Relatively recently colonial policing received considerably scholarly attention. But the question of social order of colonial ports cities in a comparative approach doesn’t exist. The case of the three ports cities : Shanghai, Tianjin and Istanbul give us an experimental comparative laboratory to explore the complex identity of these cities where police system was the result of an hybridation between the framework of the French police model and the local urban polices. Although it is still a little-known topic, the circulation of police knowledge is an important element in the creation of a modern police in the late Ottoman Empire and in Chinese treaty ports. The link between foreign and local polices and the circulation of knowledge guarantees the policing of these fragmented cities. Recruiting for their professionalism, French experts were sent to China and to Istanbul and very few Chinese went to France to study the science of criminal investigation. The impact of a shared police order also raises questions about urban changes experienced by the three port cities.

This project aims to complete the urban studies in connection with new and comparable areas. It will avail new archival materials (municipalities archives), memoirs of policemen, photography, illustrated journals, correspondances, police reports etc…

Building on these considerations, the aim of this project is to spur new reflection and discussion on connectivity, cooperation, and influence between local and French police in Istanbul, Shanghai and Tianjin. This comparative approach of policing practices and duties will enrich our knowledge of the maintenance of social order in two declining empires. It intends to bring together young French, Turkish and Chinese researchers to foster these case-studies related to the broad themes of the « colonial policing ».

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