Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift In Shanghai by Robert Bickers - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

The Shanghai Beat

Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift In Shanghai


Allen Lane The Penguin Press 410pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

THISI S A good book with a superb title. It claims to be a biography of Maurice Tinkler - a racist, brutal, intelligent, observant Enghshrnan who lived in Shanghai fi-om 1919 to 1939, when he was bayoneted to death by the Japanese. For most of those years he was a member of the Shanghai Municipal Police, a curious body that patrolled the International Settlement which had its own mini-government inside China's biggest city. That force and the city it served are the real subjects of Empire Made Me.

At the bottom of Shanghai's white social scale, the members of this force, who were mostly constables, were convinced, like most other 'Shanghai-landers', that they were superior to all Chinese.

Very little is known about Tinkler beyond a handful of letters, a box of curios and other mementos, some testimonies from elderly people who remembered him years afterwards, and some clippings about his death, which caused a brief international kerfufile. There is also the sparse o5cial documentation of his. career Tin . - a rapid rise and an equally rapid fall into semi-disgrace - and his death, which was savage but caused by Tinkler's own bad temper, violence, racism and resentment.

Robert Bickers, a history

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