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Friends of Sir Robert Hart

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In this talk, and her recent book ‘Friends of Sir Robert Hart’, Mary Tiffen examines her own family background, and finds a fascinating story of her connection over three generations with an outstanding Ulster man, Sir Robert Hart, who was head of the Chinese Maritime Customs from 1863 to 1908. Sir Robert Hart had a hectic career in the service of the Qing dynasty. It ruined his family life, but his friendship with three generations of Carrall women helped to relieve his loneliness and isolation. Mary’s book uses letters, diaries and over seventy photographs to bring nineteenth-century China to life.

Mary Tiffen read history at Cambridge University and after a PhD at the London School of Economics had a career in examining the social and economic aspects of agricultural change in Africa and the Middle East. After retiring in 2002, Mary turned her attention to her own family history. She visited the site of her mother’s birth and her grandfather’s death in China, as related in the prologue of her book, ‘Friends of Sir Robert Hart’.

This talk is part of the Lucy Cavendish Thursday Evening Talks series.

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