As a big fan of Audible, and of Audible Original productions, this was a brilliant invitation for me to listen to. I love history, I’m fascinated by all things I don’t fully understand, and when this request to review came through to me, I was quite excited; by chance my son is learning about ancient China, and I thought it would be fun that we were learning about it together, albeit if I was learning about murder.
What I found, however, was that this was not simply a tale of ancient murders. Rather, it was a journey of white privilege and British colonialism. It was tales of unjust courts and biased judges. It was a brutal examination of the value placed on human lives. It was a rather painful, and embarrassing, thing to be listening to as a white person. I felt uncomfortable – and so I damn well should.
We are not educated at all within the general school system regarding the damage that the British inflicted around the world, and it takes authors writing things like this to break down those walls, and do what the current education system does not. As the author states himself, this is a big gap in the education of so many people, and it is only through self education that, currently, we can learn about this important stretch of history, a hundred years ago in time, but a million miles away in human behaviours.
This Audible Original production, authored and narrated by Paul French, looks through the history of series of murders from an anthropological perspective, both forensically and socially. A multinational society where each nation dealt out their own justice in Shanghai meant that a a functional system of courts was almost entirely impossible. This system – or rather, the mess appearing to be a system – impacts the cases in so many ways, from the extra territorial rules of “The Trenches”, to murderers simply fleeing to the area to escape justice, it is evident how much of the history of Old China is made up of twists and turns that have been inaccessible, until now.
One of the things that stuck with me throughout these tales was that of the first potential death penalty case for a white man having murdered a Chinese man. It was astounding at the time, that a white man should answer for a crime that was considered so base and low. The utter dismissal surrounding the value of life of native Chinese and Tibetan people really shocked me, and I say that as someone who has always hoped to be considered aware of the privilege white people have held around the globe during their aggressions around the world, past and present. But people in their own country were being considered as disposable and worthless, and crimes against them as something that you would never need to answer for. This all within what could be a human lifespan.
Modern politics aside, there is talk about changing the current history syllabus to discuss matters such as these, and this work has proven to me the high need for such changes. Why are we not being taught more about the damage we have caused from an early age? I am so grateful to have been a part of this blog tour for the sake of my own education, to make sure I can educate those around me, and to advocate for this series to help with the education of others. Life is constantly about learning, and I am glad I know these things now. Yet feel very passionately that these are things I should have known, in detail, years ago.
The cases themselves are fascinating, and incredibly accessible. The author and narrator talks in terms that are open to those with no history of Chinese study. Suitable for those who enjoy true crime tales, stories of history fiction or non fiction, or those who just enjoy learning something new, this really is a perfect selection of tales to help knowledge bloom in more than one way. Shocking, engaging and thrilling, this series is a must listen, and I know I will be listening to them again.
Thank you to Midas, to Audible Originals, and to the author Paul French for this journey through the streets of Shanghai, the mountains of Tibet, and the island of Hong Kong.