Thursday, April 22, 2021
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm ET
The Personal and the Global in China's Mid-19th Century Civil War
Dr. Tobie Meyer-Fong
Johns Hopkins University
During the mid-nineteenth century, millions, probably tens of millions, of people in China died as the consequence of the devastating Taiping Civil War (1850-1864). The war destroyed lives, ruined cities, and obliterated cultural heritage. It also tore apart families and ravaged communities. At the time and in retrospect, various parties at home and abroad portrayed the war in absolute moral terms: as a battle between the loyal and righteous adherents of the ruling regime and unwashed and unruly rebels bent on its destruction and later, as a revolutionary movement seeking righteously to overthrow an alien dynasty, or as an incipient Protestant movement. Dynamics on the ground were, of course, far more complicated.
When we consider war at the level of the nation-state or empire, we lose sight of its local effects and transnational and global entanglements. Scholars, both in the China field and beyond, recently have turned to projects that present war as less heroic, less patriotic, less progressive, and less dependent on the battlefield deeds of great men. In conversation with recent works on the nearly contemporaneous American Civil War, this article will consider the Taiping Civil War as it was understood by many at the time: as an unpredictable set of local events, and, from overseas, in relation to other wars of the period.
Free and open to the public; however, registration is required.