BICC Cultural Engagement Partnership at the John Rylands Library – David Woodbridge


For my BICC Cultural Engagement Partnership, I am working with the John Rylands Library in Manchester. The library is home to most of the special collections of the University of Manchester, which include an extensive Chinese collection.

This collection was recently found to contain an unexpected treasure, and there is much more that remains to be examined. I have begun by looking at the papers of Edward Harper Parker (1848-1926). Parker worked for over twenty years for the British consular service in China, and was also one of Britain’s foremost sinologists of the time. After retiring from the consular service, Parker devoted himself to researching and writing about China, and in 1901 became the first holder of a new chair in Chinese at the University of Manchester. I am working to produce a hand list of Parker’s papers, so that the scope of this collection can be better appreciated by researchers. Parker’s contributions to Chinese studies, which was then a young discipline in Britain, have been largely forgotten. But he wrote widely on a variety of topics, ranging from ancient history to contemporary affairs, and encompassing both the Chinese heartland and the peoples and nations on China’s borders. His papers are providing interesting insights into his working methods and interests, and to his role in advancing the understanding of China in Britain at the start of the twentieth century.

The John Rylands Library is also one of Manchester’s top visitor attractions. Many people come simply to view the beautiful historic reading room, but the library also runs a range of public exhibitions and events, showcasing items from its wide collections. During my three months at the library, I will also be working with the visitor engagement team to produce one such event. It will provide visitors with an exciting opportunity to view some items from the library’s Chinese collection, and will hopefully serve to spark a wider interest in the history and culture of China.


BICC Manchester Chinese for Academic purposes week


P1020791Classical Chinese Workshops

BICC Manchester hosted and funded 15 China field PGR’s from all over Europe, from the 4th until the 8th April for a week long intensive Chinese for academic purposes workshop, with an emphasis on Classical Chinese training.

This was made possible  with thanks to supplementary funding from a collaboration with BICC Bristol, SOAS China Institute and HEFCE funding.  The Training course was  open to PGT and PGR students across the China field and financial barriers to access were removed by providing support for travel and accommodation for all the participants as well as one week’s training delivered by Chinese Professors in Linguistics and a teaching team from Manchester University.

The week was intense and the participants worked hard, and the organisation was overseen and planned by PI to the BICC project, Professor of Chinese History  Yangwen Zheng, with the Classical Chinese lessons being given by the Director of the Manchester Confucious Institute Dr Jianxi Wang.




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.