As part of a series of events and films marking its tenth anniversary year, the AHRC, which funds the BICC though its LBAS scheme, has made a short film about the ‘Historical Photographs of China‘ project at the University of Bristol. The project has received a lot of support from BICC and the AHRC, and is also being showcased on 2-4 March at the government’s UK Trade & Investment’s ‘GREAT Festival of Creativity’ in Shanghai.
As a BICC postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bristol’s history department this past year, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of fascinating projects that have expanded my research horizons and encouraged me to rethink the way I approach source material in my own work. The first of these has been the Historical Photographs of China – also known as the Visualising China – project. It introduced me to a rich visual record of the Chinese past, full of serendipitous interconnected personal histories and forgotten vistas.
The second, which is tied to the ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstruction over the Earth) endeavor at the MET Office, gave me a glimpse of how the travel writings and records of nineteenth-century adventurers and merchants could be put to use to measure historical patterns of climate change. Both projects have given me a sense of how history could be put to use both directly and indirectly: from heritage and educational work to thinking about perhaps the biggest challenge of our time.
My own research explores China and Taiwan. Over the past few years, with the help of a postdoctoral fellowship on the Leverhulme-funded China’s War with Japan project that ran from 2009-2011, I’ve been looking at plans for rehabilitation and reconstruction in China during the war years. The first part of this research, which interrogates the transnational influence of reconstruction planning, recently appeared in the European Journal of East Asian Studies. This article analyses the influence of the Beveridge Report and the American Social Security Act on Chinese social policy planners, exploring what their interest in these designs can tell us about the contours of the Nationalist (Guomindang) state in an era of total war.
My interest in postwar planning developed from my Ph.D., which I undertook at Bristol under the supervision of Professor Robert Bickers. The thesis focused on the first decade of Guomindang rule on Taiwan from 1945-1955, considering how the problem of mobilising a disaffected (and terrorised) island population help shaped the way party leaders reformed what a decrepit party-state. Their state-building techniques, I argue, provide an insight into how party leaders and the rank-and-file conceived of how authority was earned and used. This work adds to the growing literature on the political culture of the early Cold War in East Asia. I will be giving a talk on this project next week, August 13, as part of Hoover Institute’s workshop series ‘Revisiting Modern China’.
The BICC postdoc this year afforded me some valuable time to advance my research and teaching as well as introduce me to realms of history and public engagement that I had not experienced before. It has proven a vital stepping stone in the development of career . As of September 2013, I will be taking up a permanent lectureship in Chinese History at Exeter University, but I am keen to keep up with the projects I’ve been involved with over the past few months.
The ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project, which has been supported over the past year by the BICC, has been chosen to provide materials for the second display on the new online Image Gallery on the website of the Arts & Humanities Research Council. A selection of images was made from a recently-digitised collection of photographs mainly taken by a young printing manager, Jack Ephgrave, who worked for the British American Tobacco Company in Shanghai from 1929 onwards. These have just gone live under the title Picturing China with commentary from Robert Bickers, with the assistance of BICC research associate Dr Tehyun Ma and Jamie Carstairs, Project Digitzation Officer.
The exhibiton at Chongqing Tiandi is being opened by Benedict Mann, British Deputy Consul-General in Chongqing, and is the resul of a collaboration between the Consul-General Press Team, RCUK China, and the British Inter-university China Centre. BICC is funded by the AHRC and the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ has been supported as an Academy Research Project since 2006 by the British Academy.
As part of the Digital China network, BICC staff Robert Bickers, Jamie Carstairs and Tehyun Ma, have been involve in preparing a pop-up exhibiton at the Bristol City Museum (9 February) and M-Shed (10 February). For fuller details see the ‘Visualising China’ blog.
This roundtable aims to facilitate the exchange of information about current projects internationally which explore the history and the archives of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. Project leaders from China, Taiwan and the UK will discuss the current state of the field, future plans, and the potential for interaction and networking between the initiatives, and between professionals, academics, archivists and librarians.
Panel articipants: Li Yan (Vice President, China Customs Institute); Professor Wu Songdi (Fudan University, Shanghai); Dr Henk Vynckier (Tung-Hai University, Taiwan); Professor Robert Bickers (University of Bristol).
Location: Royal Holloway University of London, 2 Gower Street, London WC1E 6DP