Shanghai Municipal Police Archives

We are pleased to announce the release of our collection of Shanghai Municipal Police archives in searchable text format on Bibliothèque Numérique Asiatique [Asia Digital Library]. The original collection of microfilms was purchased from NARA in the mid-1990s and remained accessible only through in situ consultation at the Lyon Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO). In the past two years, we launched a program of digitization in collaboration with Prof. Jiang Jie at Shanghai Normal University. After the completion of the digitization process, the ENP-China team took up the task of turning the high-resolution TIFF images into searchable PDF documents. The curation of the digital collection was placed under the responsibility of Feng Yi (IrAsia, CNRS).

The collection is almost complete. For reasons still unclear, five rolls are missing [39, 64-67], which we hope to retrieve at a later date. Nevertheless, the collection made available today includes a total of 62 rolls. The documents — one document per roll — can be read on line or they can be downloaded for free. There is no restriction on the use of these materials. We provide a search engine for the online version that will list all the pages in a document that contains the queried string of characters. It is very handy to navigate through the documents. Each roll represents on average some 1,400 pages or more than 90,000 pages for the whole collection. To retrieve the collection, type “Records of the Shanghai Municipal Police” in the search field. NARA produced a finding aid for this set of archive that we have also made available in digital format here.

These archives represent the documentation produced by the Special Branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police, the police force of the International Settlement. There is a rich historical literature on the history of Shanghai and of its foreign settlements. Much less work has been done on the police, mostly due to the blanket censorship on these archives at the Shanghai Municipal Archives. For historical contextualization, the best studies of the British presence in China, of the International Settlement and its police are to be found in Robert Bickers’ and Isabella Jackson’s works. While there is a focus on political issues, this set of archives touches on many aspects of life in Shanghai and on its political and social leaders.

“The settlement’s law enforcement agency was the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP). While the force included Chinese, Indian, and later Russian and Japanese personnel, until World War II the Commissioner and senior officers were always British. […] ·The SMP.Special Branch also served as an intel1igence gathering and, occasionally, as an executive arm of the British Secret Intelligence Service in the Far East. As a center of political activity in China and the home of a cosmopolitan population (including thousands of White Russian emigre, as well as 20,000 Jewish refugees), Shanghai was a natural target for intelligence operations by several powers.” (Records of the Shanghai Municipal Police 1894-1949, Pamphlet describing M1750, NARA).

Cite this blog post
Christian Henriot (2020, December 14). Shanghai Municipal Police Archives. Elites, Networks and Power in modern China. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from

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