Programme Director, European Studies
PhD, MA Harvard University
BA Brown University
Dr. James R. Fichter is a graduate of Brown (BA) and Harvard Universities (MA, PhD). He formerly taught at Lingnan University.
His monograph, Tea’s Party: The Revolutionary Career of Consumer Good, 1773-1776 (Cornell, 2023), examines tea and consumer politics in the American Revolution.” This book uses new archival evidence to challenge standard narratives of the path between the Boston Tea Party and U.S. independence and to re-examine the rebels’ boycott mechanism, known as the Continental Association, which banned imports from Britain, exports to Britain, and the consumption of British goods and tea. It argues the economic, political, social and cultural trajectories of this crucial period were not what they seemed.
His next monograph, Suez Passage to India: Britain, France, and the Great Game at Sea, 1798-1885, examines the interconnections between the British and French Empires in Asia, from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 to the Sino-French War and the Scramble for Africa in 1885. Egypt and the Suez Isthmus provided a route between Europe and Asia, one which existed initially in the imperial imaginaire, but was increasingly viable as road, rail, and canal made the movement of goods, men, and ships between the Mediterranean and Red Seas practical. Steam technology, from the diggers which finished the Suez Canal itself to the steamships which passed through it and the rail line alongside it made this link work. This shift to coal not only yoked together the two empires at Suez, it linked them throughout Asia, as an initially British-dominated coaling system became, by the 1880s, an international carbon system supporting both powers’ navies, troop transports, and colonial exports. Suez and steam power, then, mediated the Anglo-French relationship in Asia, making imperial rivals into frères ennemis, whether they wanted to be not. Portions of this monograph are already complete.
His first book, So Great a Proffit: How the East Indies Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism, investigated the connections between the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific worlds. It revealed the links between U.S. and East India Company trade in Asia and examined the broader significance of U.S.-British-Indian-Chinese-European trade during the Napoleonic Wars for both American capitalism and British politics. It received the Thomas J. Wilson Prize for best first book from Harvard University Press.
He has research interests in international, economic, imperial, maritime and environmental history in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. He is completing a GRF, a major external research grant in Hong Kong, and is working on several additional articles and edited collections.
He teaches on the Atlantic World, World War I, U.S.-China relations, colonialism, and the ethnology and anthropology of Europe.
523, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
HKU Scholars Hub
Region and Language
International, economic, imperial, maritime and environmental history in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries