Call for Papers: “China in Britain 1760-1860


Call for Papers

China in Britain: 1760 to 1860

A conference organised by British Inter-university China Centre (BICC) and the Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) and to be held at the University of Manchester 12-13 May 2016.

2016 marks the bicentenary of Lord Amherst’s embassy to China.  This episode of history seems to have been largely forgotten by historians of Britain and China, and has generated little scholarship.  But the embassy is important because the delegates saw – in their eyes – a different China to that which had been described before: “Dirt, squalidness, and extreme poverty were as usual their leading characteristics.  Their inhabitations were miserable beyond anything which England can exemplify … they looked more like the dens of beasts than the habitations of men” (Clarke Abel, 1819).  The British were changing their opinion about, and soon their policy towards, the Middle Kingdom.  Chinoiserie would soon lead to the “scramble for China”.  Although historians have studied “Britain in China”, they have largely ignored China in Britain after the heyday of eighteenth century Sinophilia, and before the darker turn in relations in the mid-nineteenth century.  Tea gave rise to and also saw the decline of the Honourable Company.  What is the social life of tea in the United Kingdom?  How did increasing dependence on the China trade and the ascend of the “private English” lead to a change in public opinion and ultimately policy?  What does this change tell us about British polity and society?  We welcome historians/scholars of Britain and China to a debate that addresses the following issues in an effort to promote Anglo-Chinese, some might say Sino-British, studies.

  1. Chinoiserie and allure of the Middle Kingdom in Britain
  2. China trade and its impact on British economy and society
  3. Changing public opinion about and policy towards China
  4. Individuals and institutions that emerged during the change

Inquiries and abstracts of no more than 150 words and 5 lines of biographical information should be sent to: before 30 January 2016. Those accepted to present at the conference will be notified by 29 February.  Accommodation and food will be provided during the conference. There is a modest budget for travel but priority will be given to PhD students.

Britain and China, 1840-1970: new book from BICC researchers

Britain and China, 1840-1970 coverJust published by Routledge, and very much a BICC volume, Britain and China, 1840-1970: Empire, Finance and War, is co-edited by Robert Bickers and Jonathan J. Howlett. The volume presents some of the research first aired at BICC’s August 2011 conference ‘Britain and China, pasts, presents and futures’. Held at the University of Bristol this event brought together over 30 speakers from across the globe.

The collection presents 11 essays, outlining the results of research into new archives, or exploring new paradigms for understanding the course of Britain-China relations.

Contributors include BICC researcher Isabella Jackson, and essays by Paul Bailey, John Carroll, Chen Qianping, Koji Hirata, Sherman Xiaogang Lai, Benjamin Mountford, Stephen R. Platt and Hans van de Ven. The cover photograph shows the pipes of the Shanghai Scottish Company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps in action on a Shanghai street in 1924: source, Hutchinson collection, Historical Photographs of China project (C) Barbara Merchant.

费城: BICC goes to Philadelphia

BICC has a strong presence at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, which is taking place in Philadelphia on 27-30 March. (In Mandarin Chinese it is 费城: Feicheng). BICC researchers have organised four panels, and contribute to several others. Two BICC-funded films were also accepted for screening in the AAS Film Expo: ‘For China and the World‘, produced by Robert Bickers and Calling the Shots, and ‘China Dreams: The Debate‘, directed by Professor Wiliam Callahan.

Dr Margaret Hillenbrand (Oxford) has organised a panel on ‘The Past and Present of Digital Culture in China‘, William Callahan has organised ‘China Dreams: Historical, Theoretical, and Policy Perspectives on the PRC’s Future‘, which explores in a multidisciplinary way the meaning of the concept ‘The China Dream-Zhongguo meng’ which was introduced by Xi Jinping soon after he was appointed the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of China in November 2012. This term struck a chord in China, becoming the “hottest term” of 2012 according to Beijing’s State Language Commission. Former BICC researcher Kelvin Cheung (The Hong Kong Institute of Education) is also presenting on the panel.

Anna Lora-Wainwright (Oxford) has co-organised a panel with Yanhua Deng on ‘Protest and Policing in Contemporary China‘, chaired by Prof. Kevin O’Brien and with Prof. Guobin Yang acting as discussant. The panel examines contention and policing in contemporary China.  It looks at various forces involved in protest control, including the police, work units, social ties, and information communication technologies (ICTs).  It also highlights the range of strategies citizens use to fight back against repression, such as resorting to elite allies and ICTs-based mobilization.  Focusing on one in-depth case study of high-profile resistance in a rural setting. Dr Rachel Silberstein (Oxford) has co-organised with Buyun Chen, of Swarthmore College, a panel on ‘Fashioning Textiles, Fabricating Fashion: The Technology of Cloth and Clothing from Seventh to Twentieth Century China‘, which  explores how the production and consumption of textiles shaped fashion in Chinese history.

Robert Bickers is participating in a roundtable assessing the impact and legacy of Paul Cohen’s 1984 volume Discovering History in China, while Professor Barend ter Haar (Oxford) is chairing another roundtable on ‘Literacy and Writing in Premodern China‘. Manchester network co-ordinators Pierre Fuller and Jane Caple are also presenting.

Call for Papers: The Globalisation of Christianity in China, University of Manchester 15 – 16 May 2014

Call for Papers: The Globalisation of Christianity in China

 An international conference organised by

Centre for Chinese Studies,

Division of Religions and Theology

To be held at the University of Manchester 15-16 May 2014

 Christianity came to China four times: with the Nestorians during the Tang dynasty (618-907), the Franciscans during the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), the Jesuits during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and with the Protestants ever since the Opium War (1839-42) and during the Republican Era (1911-1949).  But four times it seems they disappeared as these dynasties and the Republican regime vanished from the map of China.  The study of Christianity in China has flourished in recent year (Richard Madson, Lian Xi, Ryan Dunch, Alvyn Austin, Daniel Bays, to name a few).  But the re-emergence and popularity of Christianity in the post-Mao era has raised new questions about the ways in which historians have studied the history of these missions/missionaries.  The churches, converts and practices they left behind have resurfaced in the post-Mao era.  These missions have not failed as generations of historians have argued. The post-Mao era has provided us with hindsight unavailable to us before. How does this help us to re-examine the history of Christianity in China? The landscape of Christianity in post-Mao China is diverse; it differs enormously not just in terms of denomination and brand but also in terms of practice as some congregate in underground churches, some in old churches built by missionaries and others in new facilities provided by the government.  How significant were the foundations laid in the two millennia before?  Many Chinese people, both the elite and the ordinary, have embraced or become interested in Christianity.  What could this mean for China in the decades to come?  We welcome historians/scholars of Christianity and China to join us in a debate that addresses the following questions/issues:

  1. Is there a pattern in the introduction and indigenisation of Christianity in China in the past one thousand four hundred years
  2. Who are the old and new Christians that have emerged and what can they tell us about history, Mao and post-Mao China?
  3. Is the post-Mao emergence of Christianity true indigenisation because it is not missionary-imposed, but home grown and self-driven?
  4. What is the significance of the transition from “Christianity in China” to “Chinese Christianity”?

Inquiries and abstracts of no more than 200 words, plus 5 lines of biographical information, should be sent to Rebecca Frost at before 5 January 2014. Those accepted to present at the conference will be notified by 31 January 2014.  Accommodation and food will be provided during the conference but paper presenters should look for their own funding for travel.

‘China’s Urban Environment, Past and Present’ Conference, 16-18 January 2014

 ‘China’s Urban Environment, Past and Present’ Conference, 16-18 January 2014

Following the success of our first workshop in Leicester in December 2012, we will be holding our main conference entitled ‘China’s Urban Environment, Past and Present’ at the University of Aberdeen on Thursday 16th-Saturday 18th January 2014.

We are seeking research papers of 30 minutes’ duration which relate to the theme of the urban environment in historical and/or contemporary China. This could include, but is not confined to, the following areas:

  • Managing/governing the city
  • Urban geographies
  • City planning
  • Urban culture as it relates to the environment of the city
  • Comparative approaches to China’s urban environments

If you wish to offer a paper, please send a proposed title and an abstract of no more than 200 words to the BICC’s Project Assistant, Grania Pickard ( by Wednesday 20 November. Enquiries may be directed to Isabella Jackson (

BICC Cultures of Consumption network conference, 26-8 September

Learning from Big Brothers: What Soviet and Central European Histories of Everyday Life May Teach Historians of the Mao Era

The British Inter-university China Centre (BICC) ‘Cultures of Consumption‘ network, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), will host the conference “Learning from Big Brothers” on 26-28 September 2013 in Oxford.  Advance registration is mandatory and places limited.

The conference brings together Central European and Soviet historians of everyday life with Chinese historians who are starting to work on similar issues for the Mao era (1949-76).  The conference will form the foundation for a network of scholars in China, the EU, and the US who are interested in consumerism and everyday life in non- and quasi-market economies since c.1945.  Creating a dialog between scholars of European and Chinese history will ensure that Chinese historians take into account the range and depth of important work that has been done in the past decade on the experience of socialism in Central Europe and the USSR.

The first two panels will outline the conference agenda.   The conference will open with a roundtable discussion led by East German historian Paul Betts, author of a recent article comparing consumerism across communist societies, and Steve Smith, the Oxford Handbook on the History of Communism, on the strengths and weaknesses of such social histories across national contexts.  Their opening remarks will be followed by comments by two China scholars working on similarly comparative projects.   And the second panel will discuss the new types of sources available and the types of histories now being written while attempting to answer the question: What are the methodological challenges of studying everyday life under socialism?

The subsequent five panels will provide explicit case studies, ranging from recently completed comparative studies by European historians to recently initiated projects by Chinese historians.  Both sides will suggest how their findings might help shape the research agendas of the other geographical side.  Frank Trentmann will discuss the challenges of comparing socialist and capitalist societies in his new book, The Consuming Passion: How Things Came to Seduce, Enrich, and Define our Lives.  And Patrick Patterson will describe his comparative project on Eastern European consumerism with a talk entitled, “The Machinery of the Market in Communist Europe: What May Apply to Communist China?”  The following three panels will consist of Chinese historians at the early stages of researching everyday life under Mao from home furnishing to shopping to diary-keeping, with brief presentations followed by comments by European historians who have already worked on similar topics.

The final panel will introduce large-scale projects underway.  Eastern European historian Josie McLellan will speak on “How to Investigate Dropping Out of Chinese Socialism: Notes from the Central European Experience” and Sun Peidong will address “What Oral Histories Can Teach Us about the Everyday Life under Mao.”

For more information please contact the conference organiser: Dr Karl Gerth (Oxford University and UCSD)



Jennifer Altehenger (King’s College London)

Felix Boecking (University of Edinburgh)

Feng Xiaocai (East China Normal University)

Karl Gerth, (University of California, San Diego)

Henrietta Harrison (Oxford University)

Jonathan Howlett (University of York)

Matthew Johnson (Grinnell College)

Toby Lincoln (University of Leicester)

Rana Mitter (Oxford University)

Aaron William Moore (Manchester University)

Paul Pickowicz (University of California, San Diego)

Sun Peidong (Fudan University)

Patricia Thornton (Oxford University)



Paul Betts (Oxford University)

Natalya Chernyshova (University of Winchester)

Sebastian Gehrig

Josie McLellan (University of Bristol)

Pal NYIRI (University of Amsterdam)

Patrick Patterson (University of California, San Diego)

Steve Smith (Oxford University)

Frank Trentmann (University of London)

New Perspectives on the Chinese 1950s Workshop; 19-21 July 2012

New Perspectives on the Chinese 1950s Workshop

King’s Manor, University of York

19-21 July 2012

This workshop has been funded by the British Inter-University China Centre (AHRC) through the Chinese 1950s Network. The network explores new approaches China’s domestic and international history in this period, it is hosted at the University of York and partnered with East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai.

The aim of the workshop is to promote the sharing of ideas on historical issues and primary source work, the establishment of a network of researchers and to explore the potential for future collaborative work.

PLEASE NOTE:  For logistical reasons this is an invitation-only event, panel details are for information only

 Friday 19th July

Panel 1 – Writing the 1950s (culture, society, knowledge and history) Chair: Karl Gerth

Felix Wemheuer (University of Vienna), How to Write a People’s History of 1950s: A Thought Experiment

Jennifer E. Altehenger (King’s College London), Finding the Right Words: Encyclopedic dictionaries, self-help guides, and the politics of knowledge in China, 1949-1956.

Panel 2 – Individuals and Institutions, Chair: Julia Lovell

Xiaobing Tang (University of Michigan), The Idea of Socialist Art in the 1950s.

Christine Vidal (Université Lille III), From Beijing to Hangzhou: Song Yunbin and his experience of united front work (1949-1957).

Gordon Barrett (University of Bristol), Transnational Contacts and Foreign Policy: the CCP, Chinese Scientists, and the World Federation of Workers, 1947-1966

 Saturday 20th July

Panel 3 – The Economy and Society, Chair: Tehyun Ma

Robert Cliver (Humboldt State University), Surviving Socialism: Private Industry and the Transition to Socialism in China

Felix Boecking (University of Edinburgh), Dismal scientists among the hundred flowers: Chinese economists in the 1950s

Benno Weiner (Appalachian State University, NC), High Tide on the High Plateau: The United Front and Pastoral Collectivization in Northeast Tibet (Amdo), 1955-1956

Keynote by Yang Kuisong (East China Normal University/Peking University) on the state of the field and future directions

Panel 4 – China and Japan in the 1950s, Chair: Chris Hess

Amy King (Australian National University), Dealing with the ‘Enemy’: Overseas Japanese in the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China, 1945-1956

Barak Kushner (University of Cambridge), The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945–1965

 Sunday 21st July

Panel 5 – China’s Urban 1950s, Chair: Jon Howlett

Karl Gerth (University California, San Diego), Compromising with Consumerism in

Socialist China: Transnational Flows and Internal Tensions in ‘Socialist Advertising’

Christian Hess (Sophia University), Living the socialist high life? Colonial legacies and the making of urban socialism in Dalian, 1945-1955

Jiang Jin (East China Normal University), Urbanism vs. Communism? Best-Seller theatres in Early PRC Shanghai

Call for Papers: New Perspectives on the Chinese 1950s, York, 19-21 July 2013

The call for papers for this Chinese 1950s Network conference has now been issued. The conference will be held at the University of York, 19-21 July 2013. Paper abstracts should be no longer than 300 words and panel proposals are most welcome. Contributors are requested to direct all correspondence to The deadline for submission of proposals is Friday 22nd March 2013.