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Science and empire: the view from Beijing, c. 1700

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Twentieth-century historiography of imperialism has consistently depicted China as patient rather than as agent. This view ignores the fact that from the mid-17th century onwards, Beijing was the centre of a large and aggressively expanding empire, an empire unique in that the great majority of its conquests remain intact to the present day. The neglected example of this great land empire enables us to transcend the stereotype of science and empire studies as mainly or solely concerned with the expansion of European powers overseas. In this talk, I will show how the sciences of empire were constructed during the first century of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Conversely, I will explore the extent to and the ways in which the Qing expansion in central Asia broadened the Chinese world of knowledge.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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