This thesis takes the topic of salespeople and promotional culture as a route into colonial modernity, and in particular the relationship between Australia and Asia between 1920 and 1939. Drawing on the writings of salespeople and the archives of the commercial institutions in which they worked, it traces the ways in which face-to-face commercial interactions make visible the economic dimensions of cultural encounters in colonial contexts. I suggest that salesmanship and promotional culture were colonial technologies of rule and I argue that examining salespeople personalises the economic policies behind colonial rule. One of the criticisms of cultural histories of colonialism is that they represent a turning away from class and political economy. Salespeople are useful in this regard because they inhabited the economic institutions of colonial regimes – from trading depots to railways and shop fronts. They were, therefore, present for moments of conflict over capital, labour conditions, unemployment, tariffs and boycotts. Theories of personal efficiency, self-salesmanship and promotional strategy, as they were applied to the lives of individuals, were cultural reflections of the economic conflicts brought about as colonial-era institutions modernised in the interwar period. Here I examine publicity agents, the use of celebrity in politics, union publicity and factory workers in Australia and China, Department Store sales training, sensational journalism, commercial travellers and store managers in Australia (both European and Asian) and Australian salespeople in China. As economic exchanges in colonial contexts were invariably trans-national and often multi-lingual, a focus on salespeople draws historical attention to non-English language sources and transnational movements of people and goods. This approach seeks to draw three lines of historical inquiry together: trans-national histories, histories of labour and histories of urban modernity.