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Henry C. Lewis diary

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0598

Scope and Contents

Henry C. Lewis wrote diary entries between April 15, 1857 and October 30th, 1858. He began recording his experiences during the three month journey from England to China on board the ship SS Himalaya, purchased by the Royal Navy in 1854. The ship stopped in São Vicente (Cape Verde Islands), Simons Town (South Africa), and Singapore, where he boarded the ship "Ganges" to reach Hong Kong (China). Lewis often described these places with the prejudice of an Englishman of that day. In China he often traveled to Canton, where he narrated the steady arrival of men, ships and supplies as tension escalated during the war. In September 1857 he reported the arrival of British diplomat James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin, who ordered the bombing of Canton from the Pearl River. In the following entries he described the military and political developments of this incident.


  • Creation: 1857-1858


Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

In this diary Henry C. Lewis described his experience as Deputy Assistant Commissary General in the British Army from 1857 to 1858 during the Second Opium War. The war was fought between the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Dynasty in China from 1856 to 1860. It was disputed over legalising the opium trade, opening all of China to British merchants and exempting foreign imports from tariffs. The tension arose from the growth of Imperialism, the expansion of overseas markets, the establishment of new ports of call and the growth of international trade. In 1857 part of the British Army traveling to China was delayed by the Indian Rebellion, which challenged the control of 'British East Indian Company' in India. This was the case of the 90th troop on board ship SS Himalaya, in which Lewis was a passenger. But he borded a different ship in Singapore to reach Hong Kong, where he worked for the British army as they attacked forts on the Pearl River in Canton (now Guangzhou, capital of the Guangdong province). These military efforts led to the signing of the Treaties of Tianjin in 1858.


0.167 Cubic Feet (1 volume)

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