cover of book

Strangers on the Western Front
by Guoqi Xu
Harvard University Press, 2011
eISBN: 978-0-674-06055-5 | Cloth: 978-0-674-04999-4
Library of Congress Classification D639.L2X8 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification 940.3089951044

This is a fresh work of history that crosses thematic boundaries: Chinese history, WWI history, world history, migration and labor history. It recovers the lost story of 140,000 Chinese workers, men mostly from the Northern Chinese province of Shandong, who were recruited by the British and French governments to support their fight against the Germans during WWI. These workers later were also “imported” to the US and Canada as those countries joined the war and felt the need for additional labor. The work is based on a decade of archival research in China, Taiwan, France, Germany, the US, Canada, and Britain. It sheds light on these long-forgotten workers, who were instrumental in the Allied efforts that resulted in a defeat of Germany. Yet the persistent racism they encountered in the West, and ultimately the erasure of their contribution both by the countries they served and the Chinese elites who recruited them for the purpose, raises the question of how power determines who is included and excluded from the historical record.

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