“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

The Old Shanghai A-Z Finally Hits the Shelves (in time for Christmas I might add)

Posted: November 28th, 2010 | No Comments »

My Old Shanghai A-Z is finally published and available online or at all good bookshops in Hong Kong and the Beijing Bookworm – it’ll get everywhere eventually but these things take time. The A-Z is an attempt to provide a definitive guide to the old pre-1949 road names of Shanghai. It started out as an index that I needed for other research and then as a way of answering the queries I get from people on old road names (you’re all welcome to keep asking by the way). However, it’s ended up being a collection of anecdotes, tales, pictures and assorted old Shanghai ephemera. Though I say it myself, it does look good and would (hint, hint) make a great Christmas present for the hard to please Shanghailander in your life!

As to how it was put together – I broke Shanghai down into three areas – the International Settlement, the French Concession and the External Roads Area. I then plotted out blocks across the three areas and retraced every street to compare old and new maps. What this revealed was that there are a lot more roads than commonly listed with old names – several hundred – and that most of the sources you’ll find on the internet are (gasp, shock horror) wrong. Mistakes get made, repeated and repeated again and eventually it’s impossible to tell – I’ve gone back to the original map and tried to start from scratch to avoid those errors. I ventured out far into Yangtzsepoo (Yangpu) to the East, the Badlands of the West, the Trenches of the North and old creeks of the South.

Anyway, now it’s out there – if you buy it then I hope you like it. More details below:

The Old Shanghai A-Z
Paul French
November 2010  252 pp.
Paperback ISBN 978-988-8028-89-4  HK$180 / US$25.00
with 200 colour images
“Shanghai is one of the greatest cities in the world to walk, wander, and wonder. In this book, Paul French brings the streets of the old city to life. Simply put, there is nothing on the market to compete with this book. Readers can get an instant historical reference to wherever they find themselves in ‘Old Shanghai’.” — Peter Hibbard, author of The Bund Shanghai
– A unique guide for the historically curious visitor to Shanghai looking to recapture the glamour of the city before the Second World War.
– Takes the reader through the city, district by district, street by street, and tells the stories of the place and the people who made Shanghai the most famous location “East of Suez”.
– Lavishly illustrated with old advertising, images and postcards of the streets and businesses, the bars and nightclubs, the people and characters of old Shanghai.
Paul French is an analyst and writer who has worked in Shanghai for many years. His books include Carl Crow — A Tough Old China Hand and Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium War to Mao.
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