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by John Barrow
In 1792, a British embassy headed by Earl Macartney travelled from Peking (Beijing), China, to Canton (Guangzou) with the aim of improving trade with China. The complete account of the mission was recorded by the Earl's private secretary, Sir John Barrow, in Travels in China (1804), a work intended to 'shew this extraordinary people in their proper colours' as well as to 'divest the court of the tinsel and tawdry varish' which Barrow thought that missionary accounts promoted. Both a paean to British imperial ambitions and a compelling example of early nineteenth-century travel literature, Travels in China presents an account of Chinese government, trade, industry, and cultural and religious practices through the eyes of one of England's most ardent expansionists. Barrow would go on to write an account of the mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty (1831), but Travels in China remained by far the more significant work in his lifetime.