Famine Relief in Warlord China

Dr Pierre Fuller  

About the project

My recently published book, Famine Relief in Warlord China (Harvard East Asian Monograph Series, 2019), seeks to revise our understanding of modern Chinese society through the prism of disaster relief.

My work covers topics ranging from ecological crisis and political culture to mutual aid and social welfare. In the process, it reorients recent social history away from the coastal cosmopolitan enclaves of Shanghai and Hong Kong to rural communities, while expanding the study of disaster mitigation in China beyond international aid agencies. Instead, using local histories and grave inscriptions it identifies a rural relief culture that persisted in China despite the increased marginalization of the country’s interior where the vast majority of Chinese have lived. And, using China’s vibrant yet understudied newspaper industry from a century ago, it unearths evidence of civil society in northern cities like Beijing and Harbin right on the eve of China’s turn to one-party rule.

Recovering civil society and rural welfare cultures in pre-revolutionary China is especially important today as the country continues to navigate post-Maoist reforms and assumes a leading role globally.