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Authors: Barish, Daniel
Advisors: Elman, Benjamin
Contributors: History Department
Subjects: History
Asian history
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The nineteenth century was a tumultuous time for the Qing Empire (1644-1912). After endemic corruption and devastating wars at the start of the century, most scholarship on the late Qing highlights the role of local elites and regional interests leading to the fall of the dynasty. In contrast, this dissertation argues for the importance of the Emperor in the cultural and political history of the era. I demonstrate that beginning in 1861, the Qing Court worked to redefine the Emperorship, re-negotiating the bounds of political participation and re-conceptualizing the relationship between the imperial family and people around the country. These efforts helped to preserve the empire for fifty years after collapse seemed imminent. The Emperor’s education was the focal point of this project. From 1861-1912, a series of three young boys were enthroned as Emperor. Led by a coalition of Empress Dowagers and Princes, the Court established a discourse and set of practices linking pedagogy and the potentiality of power within the Emperor’s classroom. Scholars with divergent ideals of reform were promised the opportunity to mold the Emperor into an advocate of their vision of the country’s future, and the Emperor was promised the power to assert his will on behalf of whichever faction he favored. This competitive cooperation at the center counterbalanced centrifugal forces around the country. The power promised to both scholars and the Emperor were ultimately illusory, but the pursuit of that power sustained the Emperorship throughout the late nineteenth century. When the Qing began transforming into a constitutional monarchy in the early twentieth century, the Court presented the reeducation of the imperial family as central to the task. New schools and ceremonies surrounding imperial education sought to teach the Court’s subjects to be members of an emergent national community while assuring international powers that the Qing was adopting global norms of governance. The constitutional project thus invented an ideal of the Emperor as symbol of the nation. Multiple post-imperial governments attempted to capitalize on this idea, working to reeducate the ex-Emperor in new political ideologies and present him as an icon of their regimes.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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