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Transforming Frank Peasgood. Family Photographs and Shanghai Narratives

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

What narratives can be fashioned by the historian from visual documents, and how might this relate to the narrative intention of those who created them? This paper explores the handful of surviving photographs recording the career of a British member of the Shanghai Municipal Police between 1929 and 1943. War and internment destroyed most of the visual records that former coalminer Frank Peasgood had collected during his police service, saving only those that had accompanied letters he had sent home to his family. The narrative he created with these can be clearly presented, and is discussed in the first part of the paper. Clearly, only visual documents could so powerfully demonstrate the transformation undergone by a man coming from his background, and provide the tools for showing that transformation. The photographs are then revisited and a further, complicating, layer of narrative is added, one which puts the policeman back into his place as a colonial subject.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol


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