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Dr Elisabeth Forster 

Lecturer in Modern China; Admissions Team

Dr Elisabeth Forster's photo

I am a historian of modern China, focusing on intellectual, diplomatic and social history, and especially the way they tie in with each other. My current project explores concepts of peace in China from the 19th century to the present.

My background is in Chinese Studies, which I pursued in Munich, Dalian (China) and Oxford. I received my D.Phil. from Oxford in 2015. Before coming to Southampton, I taught Chinese history in Oxford, Freiburg (Germany, 2016-2018) and Hamburg (Germany, 2017-2018).

My current book project has the working title A Peaceful Nation? China’s Peacefulness Claim from the 19th Century to the Present. China’s claim to be peaceful is surprisingly durable in its modern history, and appears in the 19th century, in the Second World War, in the Cold War, as well as in the present. My goal is not to discuss whether China really is peaceful or not. Instead, I ask which functions the peacefulness rhetoric had at various points in time and which changing concepts of peace and peacefulness lay behind it.

My doctoral research, which was recently published as a book (1919 – The Year That Changed China), was a revisionist study of China’s New Culture Movement (also known as May Fourth). This was an event in the early 20th century that in many ways created modern Chinese culture – for example, it was instrumental in creating the modern Chinese language, and also in the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party. These ideas gained currency over the course of the year 1919, and this was a development that took even well-informed circles by surprise. I ask why nobody predicted that Chinese culture would take this path of this form of modernity at the beginning of the year 1919, when this was obvious to most by its end. The story I tell about this cultural transformation is one about academic infighting, rumours and conspiracy theories, newspaper stories and intellectuals (hell-)bent on selling agendas through powerful buzzwords.

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Book Chapter


HIST3238 (s1) S1: Themes in the History of Modern China
HIST3132 (s1) S1: Conflict and Transformation
HIST6128 (s2) S: China in the Cold War

Dr Elisabeth Forster
Student Office, Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton. SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2051

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