The Study of China in the Department of History

The study of China enjoys a prominent place in the teaching and research of the Department of History. Its origin goes back to the close of the Second World War, when North American universities realized that if history is how “we” got to be who “we” are, that “we” had to include Chinese.

UBC appointed its first lecturer in the history of China, and its first Chinese professor, Ho Ping-ti. Professor Ho launched his first course, History 320 (“Modern China since 1644”), in 1948. He left for the University of Chicago after over a decade of teaching at UBC, but it was here that he wrote his greatest work, Studies on the Population of China (1959), which we still read in our graduate seminars. He also played a key role in acquiring the Puban Collection, which forms the core of the Special Collection in the Asian Library.

The appointment of historians of comparable eminence followed: Professors Wang Yi-t’ung in the 1950s, Edgar Wickberg in the 1960s, Alexander Woodside in the 1970s, and Diana Lary in the 1990s. Together with colleagues in Asian Studies (notably Professors Ch'ü T'ung-tsu, E. G. Pulleyblank, Daniel L. Overmyer, and Ch'en Jo-shui), they established the Department as the leading centre for the study of Chinese history in Canada. The Department has since appointed or cross-appointed historians whose expertise ranges from the fourteenth century to the twenty-first and extends to politics, society, economy, foreign relations, wartime collaboration, the history of science, and the history of overseas Chinese: the largest group of China historians in any university in North America.

The Department offers a complete set of courses on China for undergraduates and provides graduate students with training in fields from the Ming dynasty to the Republic congruent with the expertise of its faculty. Visitors are welcome to browse through our site and learn more about our research and teaching programs.