Cynthia Brokaw received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1984. A specialist in late imperial Chinese history (ca. 1400 1900), she taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Oregon, and the Ohio State University before coming to Brown in 2009. Her first work, The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China, examined the role of popular religious belief in the formation of social ideology. Her current research focus is the history of the book in China. Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods, based on archival and field work in China, is a study of a rural book publishing industry active in distributing popular texts throughout south China. She is now engaged in research on the role that print culture played in the re-integration of Sichuan province into the Chinese political and cultural mainstream over the course of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
|"The Dance of the 'Old' and the 'New' in Chinese Print Culture, 1860s-1955". Science in Context. 2017; 30 (3) : 281-324.|
"Empire of Texts: Book Production, Book Distribution, and Book Culture in Late Imperial China".
2015; : pages 181-236.
"Regional Publishing and Late Imperial Scholarship: The Zunjiing shuyuan 尊經書院 of Chengdu and Scholarly Publication in Late-Qing Sichuan".
2015; : 597-635.
Brokaw, C., and Peter Kornicki, eds. The History of the Book in East Asia.
Brokaw, C., and Christopher Reed, eds. From Woodblocks to the Internet: Chinese Publishing and Print Culture in Transition.
“17 到 19世紀中國南部鄉村的書及書籍的流傳” (Book Markets and the Circulation of Texts in Rural South China, 17th-19th Centuries).
Qingshi yicong 清史译丛. 2008; 7 (1) : 40-76.
Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods.
“Book History in Premodern China: The State of the Discipline I”.
Book History. 2007; 10 : 253-290.
Brokaw, C., and Kai-wing Chow, eds. Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China.
“Publishing, Society, and Culture in Pre-Modern China: The Evolution of Print Culture” (A Review of Inoue Susumu’s 井上進 Chūgoku shuppan bunkashi: shomotsu sekai to chi no fükei 中国出版文化史中国出版文化史 : 書物世界と知の風景, A Cultural History of Chinese Publishing: The World of Books and the Landscape of Knowledge, , A Cultural History of Chinese Publishing, Nagoya: Nagoya University Press, 2002)".
2005; 2 (1) : 135-165.
The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China.
Cynthia Brokaw researches the history of woodblock publishing and the history of the book in late imperial China. She is most interested how the textual knowledge was transmitted to non-elites over the course of the late Ming and Qing dynasties and what the political, social, and cultural repercussions of that knowledge transmission were. To that end, she studies the increase and diffusion of commercial publishing operations; the simultaneous development of networks of bookselling; and the nature of the book culture that was spread through these networks over the course of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.
Cynthia Brokaw focuses her research on the history of the book in China from the late sixteenth century through the early twentieth centurythat is, from the beginnings of the great boom in woodblock publishing that marked the late Ming through the Qing dynasty into the early twentieth century, when woodblock publishing was in decline. Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China (University of California Press, 2005), a volume of essays she co-edited with Kai-wing Chow, was one of the first works in English to explore this relatively new field within Chinese studies. Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007) is a study of an important regional publishing industry, centered in the hinterland of southeastern China, and its role on the spread of book culture throughout south China from the late seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries. Based on archival work and extensive field work in the two villages that formed the core of this industry, this work examines the text-production process in Sibao, traces the networks of itinerant book-selling and bookstores through which Sibao texts were distributed, and describes the wide range of textsprimers and textbooks, ritual handbooks, medical manuals, fortune-telling guides, poetry collections, novels, and so forththat these rural publishers produced. Through the dissemination of these books, the Sibao publisher-booksellers were acting as agents of cultural integration, disseminating the core texts of Chinese culture to poor county seats, interior market towns, and isolated peasant villages.
Her current project, "Book Culture in a HInterland Province: Publishing in Sichuan, 17th-20th Centuries" examines the spread of commercial publishing and Chinese book culture to the southwestern borderland of China Proper during the Qing empire. This project has several goals. First, it maps the transmission of printing technologies and textual knowledge from the established publishing centers in the southeast coastal areas to the distant southwest. Second, it expands our understanding of the structure of publishing businesses and the variety in production forms in the late imperial period; and of the relationship between the older forms of printing and publishing (woodblock and movable type) and the modern printing technologies (lithography and letter-press) introduced in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Third, by analyzing the range of texts published (and the reading publics they attracted), it allows us to draw conclusions about the spread of literacy and the role that print had in cultural integration and the forging of a shared Chinese identity.
“The Dance of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ in Chinese Print Culture, 1860s-1955,” Science in Context 30.3 (September 2017) (Special Issue: From Qing to China: Knowledge Systems in Transformation): 281-324.
“Empire of Texts: Book Production, Book Distribution, and Book Culture in Late Imperial China,” in Distant Relations: The Book Worlds of East and West, 1450-1850, edited by Peter Burke and Joseph McDermott. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015. Pages 181-236.
“Regional Publishing and Late Imperial Scholarship: The Zunjing shuyuan 尊經書院 of Chengdu and Scholarly Publication in Late-Qing Sichuan,” in Imprimer autrement: Le livre non commercial dans la Chine impériale, edited by Michela Bussotti and Jean-Pierre Drège (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2014).
“The History of the Book in East Asia,” with Peter Kornicki, in The History of the Book in East Asia, edited with Peter Kornicki (Franham, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013).
From Woodblocks to the Internet: Chinese Publishing and Print Culture in Transition, edited with Christopher A. Reed (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010).
Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007). Chinese translation:《文化贸易：清代至民国时期四保的书籍交易》(Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, forthcoming 2014).
Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China, edited with Kai-wing Chow (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).
The Ledgers of Merit and Demerit: Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). Chinese translation: 《功过格:中華帝囯晚期的社会変迁与道德秩序》(Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe, 1999).
Fellow, National Humanities Center, 2012-2013
Overseas Visiting Scholar, St. John's College, Cambridge University, Easter Term, 2009
Research Grant, Committee for Scholarly Communication with China (ACLS), 2008
National Endowment for the Humanities, awarded 2008-2009
CLIO Award for Outstanding Teaching in History from the Zeta Chapter, Phi Alpha Theta, June 2004
United States-China Cooperative Research Award, Henry Luce Foundation, 1999-2005
Member, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, 1999-2000
Research Grant, Committee for Scholarly Communication with China, 1996
Fellowship for University Teachers, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1995
Research Grant, Committee for Scholarly Communication with China, Fall 1993
Fellow, Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Spring 1987
American Council of Learned Societies Mellon Fellowship for Young China Scholars, 1986-87
Association for Asian Studies
American Historical Association
Society for Ming Studies
Society for Qing Studies
As the historian of pre-modern Chinese history at Brown, I teach a wide range of courses in ancient and imperial Chinese history as well as courses that link China's past to its modern and contemporary history. In addition to surveys of late imperial history (the Song through the Qing dynasties), I offer specialized courses on early intellectual history, Confucianism in Chinese society, the literati elite and their political and social influence ("Knowledge and Power: The Elite of Late Imperial China"), on concepts of governance and social justice as forces that inspire both peasant rebellions and contemporary protests about official corruption and environmental degradation ("Social Justice and Popular Protest in China, Past and Present"), urbanization and changes in city life during the transition to modernity ("Cities and Urban Culture in China"), and women and gender relations in late imperial and modern China.
|HIST 0574A - The Silk Road, Past and Present|
|HIST 1101 - Chinese Political Thought from Confucius to Xi Jinping|
|HIST 1110 - Imperial China/China: Culture and Legacy|
|HIST 1961C - Knowledge and Power: China's Examination Hell|
|HIST 1974A - The Silk Roads, Past and Present|
|HIST 2935 - Historical Crossings|