Mark Elliott: Was China an Empire?

Mark Elliott, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (Director), Harvard University

The First JESHO Lecture on Asian History, organised by Brill Academic Publishers and Institute of Iranian Studies (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Abstract This lecture seeks to contribute to the integration of the Chinese past into global history by examining the basis upon which we think of China as an “empire.”  It begins with a discursive analysis, drawing attention to the profound disjuncture between internal and external perceptions of “China” as “empire”: after 1600 most of the world was in the habit of describing China as “imperial,” but in China itself, explicit recognition of this status did not come until 1895.  Even today, a conceptual impasse persists that hinders comparative study at a time when empire as a political and cultural formation attracts ever more attention.  To remedy this aporia, the second part of the lecture offers an analysis of the historical processes and institutions that underlay the building of the Qing state in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the degree to which these might be considered to be “imperial” in nature.

The JESHO Lecture on Asian History
This lecture series takes stock of recent historiographical interest in the study of Asia, which brings into conversation the connected dimension of world history and local genealogies of cultural change. It invites scholars working on different parts of Asia from the medieval period to the 20th century to consider political and cultural dynamics in the continent from the perspectives of their own periods, regions, and materials (the Perso-Islamicate World, South, Southeast and Far-East Asia). The aim of this lecture series is to highlight cutting-edge research on distinct fields of Asian studies and reflect on what certain socio-cultural formations might signify for the histories of individual regions and for the history of Asia as a whole.

JESHO (Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient) publishes original research articles in Asian, Near, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Studies across history. The journal promotes world history from Asian and Middle Eastern perspectives and it challenges scholars to integrate cultural and intellectual history with economic, social and political analysis. JESHO encourages debate across disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences. Published since 1958, JESHO is the oldest and most respected journal in its field. Convener: Paolo Sartori (Institute of Iranian Studies, Editor of JESHO)


13.10.2015, 18:00

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sonnenfelsgasse 19 (Theatersaal), 1010 Wien