Henrietta Harrison


Stanley Ho Professor of Chinese History; Fellow of Pembroke College 

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / Pembroke College



Research Interests:

I am a historian and my main interest is in what ordinary people’s lives have been like in China from the Qing dynasty until today.  I am also enthusiastic about writing the kind of history that tells stories as well as making arguments.  Both of my most recent books have been micro-histories and I have made extensive use of fieldwork in China, especially conducting oral history interviews and collecting village-level materials, as well as using more conventional archives and libraries.

My research has included the 1911 revolution, nationalism, Confucianism in the twentieth-century, Catholicism, interactions between China and Europe, and above all the history of Shanxi province.  I have worked across different periods, writing two books about the early twentieth century, and one that is the story of a single village from 1700 to 2012, as well as several articles about the 1950s and 60s.  My main current research is on the eighteenth century, with a focus on diplomacy and the social history of oral interpreting.

Current Projects:

  • Interpreters: The Lives of Jacobus Ly (1755-1828) and George Thomas Staunton (1781-1859)  in Europe and China from the Macartney Embassy to the Opium War
  • A history of the 1949 Communist Revolution in China with an emphasis on ideas and experiences of the revolution.

Courses Taught:

  • China and the World from the 18th to the 21stcentury
  • History and Historiography of Modern China
  • The study of Modern China

Recent Publications:


The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village 1857-1942.Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Chinese translation: 夢醒子:一位華北鄉居者的人生(1857-1942) (translated by Zhao Yanjie趙妍杰), Beijing University Press, 2013.

The Making of the Republican Citizen: Ceremonies and Symbols in China, 1911-1929. Contemporary China Institute Series, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Journal Articles

“Chinese Catholic Visionaries and the Socialist Education Movement in Shanxi (1963-65)” The Catholic Historical Review 100.4 (2014).

“Popular Responses to the Atomic Bomb in China 1945-1955” Past and Present 218 (2013).

“Rethinking Missionaries and Medicine in China: The Miracles of Assunta Pallotta, 1905-2005” Journal of Asian Studies 71.1 (2012).

 “British Imperialism, French Charity and the Changing Behaviour of Italian Franciscan Missionaries in China, 1800 to 1850” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 15.4 (2010).

“A Penny for the Little Chinese”: The French Holy Childhood Association in China, 1843-1951.” American Historical Review 113.1 (2008). 

“Narcotics, Nationalism and Class in China: The Transition from Opium to Morphine and Heroin in early 20th Century Shanxi" East Asian History 32/33 (2006/2007).

"Clothing and Power on the Periphery of Empire: The Costumes of the Indigenous People of Taiwan". Positions: East Asian Cultural Critique 11.2 (2003).

"Shanxi zhongbu Jinhe shuili xitong yu difang shehui" [The Jin River irrigation system and local society in central Shanxi] Lishi renleixue [Historical Anthropology] 1.1 (2003).

"Newspapers and Nationalism in Rural China, 1890-1919" Past and Present 166 (2000).

(Reprinted in Jeffrey Wasserstrom ed., Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches. Routledge, 2002.) 

Chapters in edited volumes

 “Global Modernity, Local Community and Spiritual Power in the Shanxi Catholic Church.” In Adam Chau ed. Religious Revitalization and Innovation in Contemporary China. Routledge, 2010.

"Village Industries and the Making of Rural-urban Difference in Early Twentieth-Century Shanxi". In Jacob Eyferth ed., How China Works: Perspectives on the Twentieth-century Industrial Workplace. Routledge, 2006.

Further Info:

Doctoral Supervision

I have supervised doctoral dissertations in a wide variety of areas of modern Chinese history, but I particularly welcome enquiries from students with interests in social,  cultural, and local history.

Photograph of Henrietta Harrison