Rana Mitter Awarded Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, has been awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2019-22.
The Leverhulme Trust describes the Fellowship as being “For well-established, distinguished researchers in the humanities and social sciences to complete a piece of original research.”

The Fellowship will support the writing of a significantly revisionist account of the postwar history of Asia. The late 1940s was a time when China was caught up in a vicious civil war, but the postwar decade – from the end of World War II to the Afro-Asian conference at Bandung in 1955 – was a crucial period when the influence of both Chinese governments (the Nationalists on the mainland until 1949, then on Taiwan, and the Communists on the mainland after 1949) shaped a regional order significantly different in its structure and values from the one in Europe. 

In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, China was in a highly unusual political position. It was simultaneously at its most powerful and its weakest position in more than a century. From the late 19th century to the mid-20th, China had been partially colonised with foreigners granted special legal status on Chinese territory, and significant restrictions on the country’s ability freely to raise tariffs.  However, China’s contribution to the Allied war effort after Pearl Harbor meant that it had gained standing in the new global community, with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and real influence in the emergence of new global institutions.  China also had great credibility in the non-European world, much of which was still under the control of western empires.  Yet China’s state, under its Nationalist government had also been broken almost beyond endurance in the last years of the war against Japan, and suffered from corruption, black marketeering, and military near-collapse. Even when the war ended suddenly in summer 1945, China was swiftly faced with the prospect of civil war between the ruling Nationalists and insurgent Communists.  The contradiction of simultaneous post-1945 Chinese strength and weakness lies at the heart of this project.  

An article based on an early part of the project can be read here in the latest edition of Comparative Studies in Society and History.


Ella Bedrock

8 January 2019