Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

China and the historical sociology of Empire

Does the nature and extent of political communication networks, measured through the frequency and multiplexity of information exchange ties, play a critical role in the reconstitution and maintenance of the Chinese Empire?

Duration
2012  -   2017
Contact
Hilde De Weerdt
Funding
ERC Starting Grant ERC Starting Grant

This project revisits a major question in world history: how can we explain the continuity of the Chinese Empire. Moving beyond the comparison of early world empires (China and Rome) to explain the different courses Chinese and European history have taken, this project aims to assess the importance of political communication in the maintenance of empire in the last millennium. The core questions are twofold: 1) How can the continuity of empire in the Chinese case be best explained? 2) Does the nature and extent of political communication networks, measured through the frequency and multiplexity of information exchange ties, play a critical role in the reconstitution and maintenance of empire?

The methodology employed in this project is based on the conviction that an investigation of the nature and extent of political communication in imperial Chinese society should include a systematic quantitative and qualitative analysis of the rich commentary on current affairs in correspondence and notebooks. By combining multi-faceted digital analyses of relatively large corpora of texts with an intellectually ambitious research agenda, this project will both radically transform our understanding of the history of Chinese political culture and inspire wide-ranging methodological innovation across the humanities.