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Fu Manchu in Edinburgh

Miles Jupp probes evil mastermind Fu Manchu's Scottish connections. Did his doctorate come from Edinburgh University? From 2010.

"Yellow Peril," "Celestial One" and "Devil Doctor": Sax Rohmer's evil genius, Dr Fu Manchu, traded under many aliases, but where was his doctorate from?

"I am a doctor of philosophy from Edinburgh, a doctor of law from Christ College, a doctor of medicine from Harvard. My friends, out of courtesy, call me 'Doctor'." - The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

Miles Jupp (also an Edinburgh University alumn) investigates the hidden Edinburgh years of the criminal mastermind who fought a war against Western imperialism after learning his trade in one of the West's most esteemed Universities.

From the novels we can work out Fu Manchu must have studied in Edinburgh in the early 1870s. So what do historical records teach us about his time there?

Back then, Conan Doyle was registered at the University Medical School, studying at the feet of Joseph Bell, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Thomas De Quincey, the English Opium Eater, had died in the city a few years before but the network by which he sourced his laudanum was still intact, brought by Chinese Coolies from the Port of Leith to the drawing-rooms of the New Town. There were Chinese students registered on the matriculation rolls of the University, some of them refugees from the Boxer rebellion, and the seamen's missions and city police reports make it clear that there was a thriving Chinese criminal network in Scotland's capital.

Could Fu Manchu have learned his criminal trade as an undergraduate at the city's university? Could his later dominance of Limehouse in London have been based on the contacts he made with Chinese gangs in Edinburgh? What factual evidence exists to flesh out the experience of the fictional enemy of the West?

Producer: David Stenhouse

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2010.

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30 minutes

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Tuesday 01:30

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