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A Comparative Analysis of Nineteenth-Century Californian and New Zealand Newspaper Representations of Chinese Gold Miners

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

During the nineteenth-century gold rush era, Chinese gold miners arrived spontaneously in California and, later, were invited in to work the Otago goldfields in New Zealand. This article considers how the initial arrival of Chinese in those areas was represented in two major newspapers of the time, the Daily Alta California and the Otago Witness. Both newspapers initially favored Chinese immigration, due to the economic benefits that accrued and the generally tolerant outlook of the newspapers' editors. The structure of the papers' coverage differed, however, reflecting the differing historical circumstances of California and Otago. Both papers gave little space to reporting Chinese in their own voices. The newspapers editors played the crucial role in shaping each newspaper's coverage over time. The editor of the Witness remained at the helm of his newspaper throughout the survey period and his newspaper consequently did not waver in its support of the Chinese. The editor of the Alta, by contrast, died toward the end of the survey period and his newspaper subsequently descended into racist, anti-Chinese rhetoric.


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