“This book is a significant contribution to both missionary studies and the history of medicine. Taking a refreshingly empirical approach, Michelle Renshaw looks past the rhetoric surrounding the value of medical missions in China to examine what actually happened in the encounter between Chinese and western medical and religious cultures. Her consistent finding is that missionaries made significant concessions to Chinese expectations and cultural preferences in every area of their activity. While missionaries emphasized bringing the ‘light’ of western science and religion, the reality was a cultural compromise that deemphasized differences rather than highlighting them.”
Bridie Andrews PhD, Associate Professor, History, Bentley University, Mass.
Michelle Renshaw’s book, Accommodating the Chinese: The American Hospital in China, 1880-1920, was published just after my teaching sabbatical in Hong Kong where I discovered my cousin had been a nurse, supervisor and instructor at the Peking Union Medical College [PUMC] Hospital and School of Nursing during the 1920s. Using Dr. Renshaw’s work I was able to contextualize the circumstances of Lucile King’s going to China and her work there on behalf of the China Medical Board. While not about any specific hospital Dr. Renshaw’s thorough coverage of the who, what, why and when Americans built hospitals in China offers insight into the work and times of these institutions, many of which survive and a few of which have re-established connections with their founding organizations. Yale-in-China [now Yale-China]established the Hsiang-ya Hospital in Changsha, Hunan and the Rockefeller Foundation (later the China Medical Board) developed PUMC in Beijing. Both institutions maintain their original buildings next to modern hospital blocks that surround them, take pride in their origins and now maintain cordial professional relations with their establishing entities.
Unlike other accounts of Americans in China, Dr. Renshaw involves the Chinese, their history and values and how they became partners first and then unique owners and users of these contemporary hospitals.
While this is a book of substantial scholarship drawn from English and Chinese language sources, the story it tells has appeal well beyond historians. Nurses, doctors, the clergy and contemporary health care administrators can all derive insights into the genesis of a system of hospitals in China so closely aligned with the west in the beginning and so far apart today.
Edward J. Halloran, RN, MPH, PhD, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Michelle Renshaw’s meticulously researched Accommodating the Chinese looks at an important puzzle. When Western medicine was introduced into China by Protestant missionaries, which aspects of the missionary hospitals were adopted from their Western counterparts, and which owed their character to indigenous Chinese institutions, and to what extent? The author gives us a detailed discussion with enormous historical evidence.
Accommodating the Chinese addresses a topic generally ignored in the history of Western medicine in China. The book studies the physical and practical aspects of the hospital in that country, giving us an idea of how Western medicine was practised from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Although much research has been done on the history of western medicine in China, there are few studies that focus on hospitals. This book, therefore, fills a gap. (Med Hist. 2009 April; 53(2): 323–324) Full Text
Tian Xiaoli PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong
What Makes a Hospital Chinese?
Dr Renshaw’s thorough examination deals with how American missionary hospitals, as well as later secular institutions like Peking Union Medical College, found out the hard way that it was not enough to simply bring a good medical product to the Chinese. It was also important to bring a Chinese product to the Chinese (hence the title).
The book is a must read for those wishing to understand China’s current medical system, and even more so for those interested in Chinese hospital”. Link to Full Text and Interviews
Damjan DeNoble, Founder and Managing Director of Health Intel Asia