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Researching Economic History: Methodological Reflections


Event Details

Date: 16 Nov 2016 (Wed) 

Time: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Venue: AM310, 3/F Amenities Building, Lingnan University

Speaker: Professor William Guanglin Liu, Associate Professor, Division of Humanities, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology



The role of the state in the Chinese history has been always a controversial issue in the English literature. Despite remarkable developments occurred in late imperial China from the tenth century down to the eighteenth century the Chinese state is described either to cause a serious hindrance to progress or a weak government that had little impact on the economy and society. At the basis of a rich collection of economic data, this paper challenges the current wisdom by questioning a widely accepted assumption of the traditional Chinese state. The author argues for divergent paths in late imperial China’s state formation in relation to military mobilization and fiscal administration. Struggle over the means of war produced state structure that no one even planned to create. This process in return reinforced an interdependent relationship between the way of how the state mobilized for massive violence on the one hand and the fiscal capacity of the administration in controlling resources on the other hand. Such a statecentered perspective highlights the significant role of the state in shaping the relationship between the state and society, and helps to explain why the Chinese states differed so much in their attitudes towards the market economy.