Irish Expat Empire Builders in China and Hong Kong: Robert Hart and John Pope Hennessy

  • Michael O’Sullivan
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


This chapter examines the lives and work of two of the most important diplomats from the island of Ireland in the nineteenth century. Both Robert Hart and John Pope-Hennessy worked for the British Empire and Robert Hart also worked for the Qing Dynasty of China. This chapter examines their careers as Irish expats and the nature of their work for the British and Chinese Empires. It also examines how their Irishness might have influenced their work for the British Empire. The chapter also publishes for the first time an illuminating and enlightening letter from Robert Hart to Hennessy from 1880 on the future commercial landscape of China and the Greater China Region. It also publishes for the first time a somewhat harrowing account of John Pope Hennessy’s first-hand experience of the Irish Famine.


Robert Hart John Pope Hennessy Expatriatism Empire China Hong Kong 

Works Cited

Works Cited

  1. ———. “So Much Depends”. The Bazaar And Other Stories. Allan Hepburn, Ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008, pp. 152–170.Google Scholar
  2. ———. The Heat of the Day. London: Anchor, 2002.Google Scholar
  3. ———. The Last September. Anchor, 2001.Google Scholar
  4. Crosbie, Barry. Irish Imperial Networks: Migration, Social Communication and Exchange in Nineteenth Century India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  5. O’Neill, Mark. Ireland’s Imperial Mandarin: How Sir Robert Hart Became the Most Influential Foreigner in Qing China. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 2017.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael O’Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishChinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

Personalised recommendations