The English-Speaking Union of the United States: Education. Scholarship. Understanding.

Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program

Julia Boyd

A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking's Foreign Colony (with book signing)

With its fossil hunters and philosophers, diplomats, dropouts, writers and explorers, missionaries and refugees, Peking's foreign community in the first half of the 20th century was as exotic as the city itself. Always a magnet for larger-than-life individuals, Peking attracted such personalities as Reginald Johnston (tutor to the last emperor), Pearl Buck, Bertrand Russell, Wallis Simpson, J.D. Rockefeller, Jr., Peter Fleming and Cecil Lewis. The last great capital to remain untouched by the modern world, Peking both entranced and horrified its foreign residents, the majority of whom lived an extraordinary high-octane party lifestyle suffused with martinis, jazz piano and cigarettes.  Ignoring the poverty outside their gates, they danced, played and squabbled among themselves, oblivious to the great political events unfolding around them that were to shape modern China.

Drawing on a variety of unpublished diaries and letters, Julia Boyd will tell the story of this small band of foreigners and will explore life in the walled foreign legation quarter. Based on her recent book, A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking's Foreign Colony (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), Lady Boyd's lecture will draw a dazzling portrait of an eclectic foreign community and of China itself, one that is essential in understanding China and its attitude to foreigners today. 

Julia Boyd is the author of The Story of Furniture; Hannah Riddell, An Englishwoman in Japan; The Excellent Doctor Blackwell, a life of the first woman physician; and A Dance with the Dragon . Lady Boyd is a former governor of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth and a former Chairman of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Council. She is married to Sir John Boyd, a diplomat who has served as British Ambassador to Japan, Chairman of the British Museum and Master of Churchill College, Cambridge University. Sir John and Lady Boyd have travelled widely in Asia. They have five children and live in London and on their sheep farm in England's Lake District.