History


Here’s a bit of errata that didn’t make it into The Queen of the Orient. (There’s always room for a second edition, I suppose…)

To keep up with events in the world and China, English-speaking visitors can turn to the most popular morning edition newspaper in the Orient, the North-China Daily News, published by the Morris brothers in Shanghai. This paper can even be found, on occasion, in London and New York. The main competition of this newspaper is The Shanghai Times. For evening papers, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury was a fervently anti-Japanese publication. More balanced was the Evening Telegraph.

This was one of the snippets that hadn’t gotten fleshed out in the final editing passes, so I thought I would expand on it. Shanghai was, after 1932, the cynosure for Oriental reporting, eclipsing even Hong Kong. Journalists than had been stationed in Peking (Beijing) found themselves moving to Shanghai, where in 1937 they would have a front-row seat to the Japanese invasion of that city. “Nowhere else is a great metropolis likely again to have a ringside seat at a killing contest involving nearly a million men,” wrote Edgar Snow of the China Weekly Review.

One thing frequently noted by the journalists of the time was the disconnected, imperial attitudes of the Shanghailanders, both the Europeans and the Chinese. The European residents of the city acted as if all the troubles that had been plaguing China were in the past. While the Great Depression was still dragging on the rest of the world, it was a time of prosperity. A devil-may-care, live for today sensibility allowed the Chinese residents of Shanghai to scramble for what they could enjoy…because while everyone claimed nothing would come of the Japanese aggression, everyone knew a reckoning was in the offing.

Some of the English language newspapers that were popular in the city were the morning edition North-China Daily News, owned by the Morris brothers, and which had an international reach and could be found in London, New York, and Canberra. The main competition for this periodical was The Shanghai Times, another morning paper with high circulation in the city and Nanking.

Evening editions included the Evening Telegraph, which had an excellent advertising rate and was popular for its extensive classifieds section. The Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury was a smaller circulation rag with a fervently anti-Japanese editor, but was the best source for news from Northern China. Excellent reporting was also found in the Shanghai Evening Post, for which later New York Times luminary Tillman Durdin worked. The China Press rounded out the reputable English language evening periodicals and was American owned and operated. As such, the The China Press editorial style was a strange, schizophrenic combination of classic colonialism and liberalism. The evening edition of the Morris news company was the North-China Herald, which was not as influential as their morning paper, but still popular. The weekly China Weekly Review was also widely read inside and out of China, and was American-owned.

In the French Concession (or sometimes “Frenchtown”), there were several dialies, as well: Le Journal de Shanghai was relatively new, having started in 1928. L’Echo de Chine was a tabloid connected to Catholic foreign missions in the city and had a scathing view of the French government in Shanghai and “radical” views regarding the social situation in Shanghai. (This was one of the hardest bits and what held up this section of the book — information on the French publications of the period is very hard to come by, for some reason. I was going to attempt to look up titles in the Siccawei Library [which still exists], but hadn’t gotten to it… SCR)

For German language newspapers there was the eveningn daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung, which had particularly courageous reporters who would slipped behind the fighting during the 1932 Sino-Japanese War to do their reporting. Initially skeptical of the Nazi Party, they would bow to pressure from the Reich and tepidly carry water for the government in Shanghai. Their competition, beginning in 1932, was the Nazi Party supporting morning edition Deutsche Shanghai Zeitung, which would change it’s name in 1936 to Der Ostasiatische Lloyd — the name of another newspaper that was published from 1889 to 1936, and had the reputation of being one of the best and the oldest continuously published newspaper in the city. The original Der Ostiasiatische Lloyd was a weekly that also published Deutsche Zeitung für China, another weekly.

Easily the best and most honest reporting in Mandarin was the British owned Shen Bao, which was published in the International Settlement, and hence was not subject to the rigid guidelines and censorship of the Kuomintang that other Chinese tabloids were. The political affiliations of the newpaper in the 1930s leaned toward the quasi-communist, often supporting Sun Yat-Sen’s widow Soong Qingling’s positions whule she was in serving in the Legislative Yuan. Shen Bao was started in 1872 and would publish until the Chinese Revolution in 1949.

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I have a class I teach that deals with time and the creation of “time” as we think of it, but this video is a pretty good primer for those that haven’t thought about it.

Time standardization wasn’t a thing until 1847, when the railways in England needed to simplify their scheduling. As the video points out, most towns set their clocks from the point the sun was the highest in the sky. But even in a small area like Britain, the difference between noon in Yarmouth and noon in, say, Penzance — a whole 120 or so miles from one side of the island to the other — is different. Train schedules necessitated time be “standardized” in Britain.

This is why the scheme was known as “railway time.” For those of you running games before 1847, there’s no time zones. There’s no fixed time save local; there were trains, however, and getting to a place when you thought you would was often problematic. You might wind up spending an evening on a railroad bench waiting for the next train because it left a few minutes before you arrived.

By 1855, all of Britain was on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), but Time Zones as we know it didn’t come into being until 1883 when the American rail companies adopted the “one hour” time zone similar to what we know today. Most of the world was on some form of standardized time zones by 1900, but there were loads of local variations. In the US, actual implementation of the StandardTime Act was in 1918, so even those with Victorian or Wild West period games can work this in — it might be noon on the town clock, but it’s 11:45 on the rail platform.

 

Here’s a documentary Back to the Source from the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) regarding how traditional views of sword fighting were crafted by stage and movie performance, not reality.

Here’s a site with flooplans for an assortment of pre-WWI apartment buildings in New York City that should be useful for pulp games set in the 1920-1940s.

Maybe she wasn’t based specifically on Doyle, or the hundreds of other women that served in OSS, SOE, and other agencies during the war, but it’s a worth title.

The young New Zealander Doyle joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps in 1941 following the death of her godmother’s father — whom she considered her grandfather — by Nazis. She was quickly recruited into the Special Operations Executive and her most famous exploit was parachuting in behind enemy lines prior to the Normandy invasion, where she posed as a French girl named Paulette. She bicycled around the combat zone selling soap to Germans and collecting intelligence on them. Her 135 messages helped craft the battle plan for D-Day. She frequently lived off the land. Her combat skills were on par with male agents. She was taught by a cat burglar to scale buildings.

She didn’t tell her kids about any of this until 1999 when a son discovered her story while researching D-Day. And just this November, after 70 years, she was awarded the Chevalier French Legion of Honour Medal, one of the highest military awards the French have.

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Then there’s the rest of them…

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You can read more about her here.

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