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Modern Chinese History

Research Projects:

The History of the Maritime Customs Service (Prof Hans van de Ven)

This research has been recently published in Prof van de Ven's latest book, Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). "This is the story of China’s economic internationalization in the century before the Communist conquest. The Maritime Customs Service was the most continuously important part of the modern Chinese state from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. It organized, promoted, and extracted revenues from China’s growing foreign trade and became (by far) the most reliable source of income for the Qing court and the Republican regimes that followed it. Serving the interests of both Chinese and foreign states, it mediated the development of Shanghai and other great coastal cities and was a pioneer in China’s modern financial sector. The eminent Cambridge historian, Hans van de Ven, has written this history in full for the first time, using an extraordinary array of Chinese and international sources. Today, as China looks to its pre-Communist past as a guide to its future, this is an important book."—William C. Kirby, Harvard University. Read more . . .

World War II in China (Prof Hans van de Ven)

Warfare in modern Chinese history has been a longstanding research interest of Hans van de Ven, a topic on which he has worked for more than two decades and to which he keeps his returning. His most recent publication on the topic is China at War (London, Profile, 2017, and Cambridge, Mass, Harvard UP, 2018. His earlier war-related publications include War and Nationalism in China, 1925 - 1945 (London, Routledge, 2003), and (with Mark Peattie and Edward Drea), The Battle for China (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Distinguished Book Award of the US Society for Military History.

China at WarBreaking with the PastCover of The Battle for China by Edited by Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans van de Ven


PhD Research Projects:

Ghassan Moazzin (PhD student)

My dissertation examines the role foreign and specifically German bankers played in the history of modern globalisation in China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By following the history of the Deutsch-Asiatische Bank (DAB, Chinese: 德華銀行) during the last two decades of the Qing dynasty and the early years of the Chinese republic, I aim to show how the interaction between foreign bankers and Chinese officials, bankers and merchants led to the rapid internationalization of Chinese state finance and the Chinese banking sector on the China coast.  Unlike the common narrative that depicts foreign banks in modern China as mere manifestations of foreign imperialism, my dissertation attempts to demonstrate that foreign banks like the DAB and the transnational networks it built with Chinese actors provided the financial infrastructure that made modern globalisation in China possible. An understanding of the role international financial institutions like the DAB played in this process does not only help us understand the history of globalisation in China at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries but is also important if we wish to understand China’s current engagement with global financial markets, public debt and foreign businesses.

Rudolph NG (PhD student; Faculty of History)

The Chinese coolie trade in 19th-century central America.

Kang Tchou (PhD student)

The Taiping Rebellion and the siege of Anqing.

HE Jiani (PhD student)

My doctoral research examines late Qing multilingualism and its relation to state building in Manchuria. 

WU Rong (PhD student)

My doctoral research examines the influence of the WWI on the constitutional process in early republican China.

LEE Kan (PhD student)

I am currently doing research on the institutional history of the Chinese Mission in Japan, 1946-1952.

Bill Moriaty (PhD student)

I am interested in the social, cultural and institutional history of KMT radio broadcasting in Republican China from 1928–1949. I am looking at radio as a symbol and its importance to the KMT at precise points of time in the Republican period. I am particularly interested in KMT conceptualizations of radio as a tool of governance and as a tool to awaken China to its destiny of modern citizenship.