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The George Morrison Collection is an extensive series of papers, letters, diaries and other materials that give some very colourful insights into the world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The core of the collection includes 238 boxes and volumes of manuscripts – diaries, correspondence and drafts of his publications, 21 boxes and volumes of photographs and a range of additional drawings, prints and realia.
The turbulent life and times of George Morrison
George Ernest Morrison, doctor, traveller and journalist, was resident correspondent of 'The Times' in Beijing from 1897, and later political adviser to the President of China (1919-1920). Sometimes referred to as 'Morrison of Peking', his collection of diaries, manuscripts and photographs – accumulated throughout his adventure-packed lifetime – documents both his personal experiences and extraordinary professional career exercising influence and power in the development of East-West relations.
Born in Geelong in 1862, Morrison had a colourful early life to say the least! By the age of 21 he had walked around the coast to Adelaide and canoed down the Murray River from Wodonga to the sea, selling his diaries of both trips to 'The Leader' newspaper. Failing his medical studies at Melbourne University, Morrison went in search of further adventures. He sailed on a black-birding schooner, walked across Australia from north to south and led an exploring expedition into New Guinea, where he was speared in the face and abdomen. In 1884 he decided to pursue his medical studies at Edinburgh University. After graduating in 1887, he worked in Spain for eighteen months, as medical officer at a British-owned mine, before returning to Australia where he worked as the resident surgeon at Ballarat Base Hospital.
By 1894, once more struck by the urge for adventure, Morrison set out to walked across China, from Shanghai to Rangoon, a journey of over 5000 km. As a result of this feat 'The Times' appointed him its first permanent correspondent in Peking. He remained in China throughout the Boxer Rebellion, taking part in the defense of the foreign legations in Peking in 1900 where he was severely wounded while rescuing another defender. In the years following, Morrison travelled extensively in Asia, reporting on the Russo-Japanese War (1905-1906) and other major international events. He resigned from The Times in 1912 to become political adviser to Yuan Shi-kai, President of the new Chinese Republic. In the same year he married New Zealander Jennie Wark Robin, with whom he had three sons. In 1919 he attended the Versailles Peace Conference as part of the Chinese delegation, but his health was declining and he died in England the following year.
G. E. Morrison wished for his papers to be donated to the Mitchell Library. Of particular significance are his detailed and comprehensive diaries which provide a unique insight into the power of communication, between East and West, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.