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Social Science History Seminar

Monday, February 4, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Baxter 237
Family Background and Career Outcomes for Exam Degree Holders in the Qing (1644-1911)
Cameron Campbell, Professor and Acting Head, Division of Social Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology ,

ABSTRACT: We examine the influence of family background on the chances of initial appointment and subsequent career mobility of Han Chinese officials who held examination degrees in the Qing (1644-1911) civil service. While our own research reveals that officials with an exam degree accounted for only a portion of Qing officials, holders of exam degrees receive most of the attention in the literature on national social and political elites in historical China. The examination system is one of the best-known features of the imperial Chinese state, and the subject of a large literature in its own right. The prominent role of the examination system in the recruitment of officials is central to claims that the state was meritocratic. Mapping the social origins of officials appointed based on exam performance, and understanding how family background and exam performance interacted to shape their subsequent career mobility will inform longstanding debates about the permeability of elites during the Qing. By extending our analysis to consider the role of family background in shaping official careers, we will be able to contribute to the large literature on the role of family background of political elites in historical China. Our data on Qing civil servants comes from the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q) that we are in the midst of constructing. The CGED-Q links information on family background, exam qualifications, and civil service careers from originally separate sources. Career information is drawn from 196 quarterly editions of the personnel roster known as the Jinshenlu, and as of September 2018 we have entered 2.77 million records of 269,517 civil officials in 196 quarterly editions. We have ancestry information for 2079 holders of national-level exam degrees (jinshi) who passed the exam at 10 sittings between 1835 and 1895. We also have ancestry information for 5,025 holders of the provincial exam degree (juren) from sittings of the exam in different years in a variety of provinces. The presentation will include a detailed introduction to this database, which is already emerging as an important resource for the study of the Qing state.

CO-AUTHORS: Bijia Chen, HKUST; Yuxue REN, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; James Lee, HKUST

BIOGRAPHY: Cameron Campbell is Professor and Acting Head (2018-19) in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research focuses on stratification and inequality, especially in historical China and in comparative perspective. With James Lee and other members of the Lee-Campbell group, he is conducting a study of the careers of bureaucrats during the Qing by construction and analysis of a database of office holders based on archival sources. He also participates in other group projects related to the study of the origins of educational elites in China from the Qing to the present and social and economic change in rural China in the mid-20th century. His early research focused on kinship, inequality, and demographic behavior in China and in comparative perspective. With James Lee and other collaborators in the Lee-Campbell group, he has published on a wide variety of related topics, including economic, family and social influences on demographic outcomes such as birth, marriage, migration, and death, fertility limitation in historical China, and the role of kin networks in shaping social mobility. For all of these projects, he and his collaborators have constructed, analyzed and in some cases publicly released large databases from archival records. He has published two co-authored books and numerous articles in such as journals as the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, and Demography. He was named a Changjiang Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China in 2017 and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. Before moving to HKUST in 2013, he was Professor of Sociology at UCLA. He earned his PhD in 1995 at the University of Pennsylvania and his Bachelor's Degree at the California Institute of Technology in 1989. More information is available here.

For more information, please contact Gail Nash by phone at 626-395-4082 or by email at [email protected].