University of Nottingham Ningbo China
School of
International Studies
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Postwar Urban Reconstruction in China, 1938 - 1958

Abstract: This paper outlines my next major research project. It explains how urban reconstruction in China during and after World War II (WWII) laid the foundation for the country to become the world's largest urban society. In focusing on the war as a transformative period in the development of China's cities, instead of the Communist Revolution, it writes the country into the global history of urban change throughout the 20th century. The paper will review the extent of wartime urban destruction in different parts of China, before focusing on how the Nationalist Government was able to establish institutions to direct urban planning and reconstruction during and after the war. Throughout this period, officials at central and local government attempted to put into practice some of the latest global ideas on urban change, which were then circulating around China. Despite the difficulties of WWII and the civil war that followed it, urban reconstruction in the 1940s formed the foundation for the development of socialist cities after 1949.

Speaker: Toby Lincoln

Bio: Toby Lincoln is Associate Professor of Chinese Urban History at the University of Leicester. After obtaining his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, he spent a year as a postdoctoral associate at the Council on East Asian Studies, Yale University and joined Leicester in 2010. He is author of two major works of urban history in China, the 2015 monograph Urbanizing China in War and Peace: The Case of Wuxi County and editor of the 2017 volume The Habitable City in China: Urban History in the Twentieth Century. He has also served as Honorary Secretary for the British Association of Chinese Studies. His research focuses on Chinese urban history, and he is currently working on two projects. 
The first is an AHRC early career research fellowship. The title is Postwar Urban Reconstruction in China 1938-1958. This research explains how urban reconstruction in China during and after World War II (WWII) laid the foundation for the country to become the world's largest urban society. In focusing on the war as a transformative period in the development of China's cities, in addition to the Communist Revolution, it writes the country into the global history of urban change throughout the 20th century. This research begins with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, which is when widespread urban destruction commenced. It ends with the start of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, which marked the intensification of policies to create industrial socialist cities. The second is a summary of Chinese urbanization from its origins to the present, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press as part of its New Approaches to Asian History series. It explores how China's imperial urban civilization has been transformed into the world's largest urban society, focusing on the development of the urban system, changes to urban morphology, and daily life in cities.

Venue & Date: Trent 209, 1:30 - 3:00pm

12 Oct