.Marjorie Dryburgh

Dr Marjorie Dryburgh

Lecturer in Chinese Studies

BA, PhD (Durham)

Contact details
Email: m.e.dryburgh@sheffield.ac.uk
Tel: 0114 222 8408
Room: B10


SEAS Research Cluster

East Asian Text and Culture

Marjorie Dryburgh works on the modern history of China, with specific interests in China’s relations with Japan before 1945, regional and urban histories, and the conventions and uses of life writing.

I am currently working on memory and oral histories of empire and occupation in Manchuria/north-east China, the relation between individual life histories and official or national histories, and the transmission and translation of narratives between different national audiences.

This builds on my earlier work in various ways. It draws on my research on pre-war north China that explored the web of local political engagements that are often overshadowed by national Sino-Japanese tensions, as well as the patterns of conflict, cohabitation and collaboration between China and Japan. This explores local social histories and questions such as the development of Japanese civilian communities in north China, and the impact of Japanese presences and activities outside major urban centres, including collaboration between Chinese groups and the Japanese authorities. It also develops on my interest in life writing in its various forms, and in the uses of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, diaries and confessions both as historical evidence by interested parties and in community building and identity work.

Research Supervision

I welcome applications to undertake postgraduate research on political and social questions in modern China. I have supervised PhD research projects on religious affairs and state-society relations in contemporary China; civil society and volunteering in the aftermath of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake; education in western China and the history and historiography of China’s foreign relations.


I teach undergraduate and postgraduate units including
EAS160 Modern Chinese History
EAS223 China 1914-1978: revolution and modernity
EAS353 Contemporary Chinese Society
EAS6353 Contemporary Chinese Society and Media
EAS6453 Media, State and Society in China

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching focuses primarily on China’s modern history and contemporary society. Our understanding of developments in both of these areas is changing rapidly, with advances in scholarship and with the pace of social change. A central question in the modules that I teach is how we make sense of those changes, and of the mass of contradictory source materials: how we locate, evaluate and analyse the sources most appropriate to a specific question, how we understand the limitations of our sources, and how we can work productively with sources that are inevitably “imperfect”.

This discipline of thinking, talking and writing critically about problematic source material is central to my own research on China’s inter-war history, but offers a set of approaches that can be applied to any type of evidence. Depending on the specific topic of enquiry, students may be asked to find and to work with academic studies produced by scholars in and beyond East Asia, government communications, the print and broadcast media, popular culture, eyewitness narratives and personal testimony, image, text and film… In class, we will discuss the varying interpretations that can be built on different sources of evidence; in independent study, students will gain experience and confidence in navigating and analysing the evidence available on contemporary and historical China.

List of Major Publications

(2016) Living on the Edge: welfare and the urban poor in 1930s Beijing. Social History, 41(1) 14-33. [online - Open Access]

Edited, with Dauncey, S. (2013) Writing lives in China, 1600-2010: Histories of the elusive self. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [view sample]

(2009) Rewriting Collaboration: China, Japan and the self in the diaries of Bai Jianwu. Journal of Asian Studies, 68(3), 689-714. [abstract]

(2007) Japan in Tianjin: settlers, state and the tensions of empire before 1937. Japanese Studies, 27(1), 19-34. [online]

(2005) National city, human city: the reimagining and revitalisation of Beiping, 1928-1937. Urban History, 32(3), 500-524. [abstract]

(2003) The Problem of Identity and Japanese Engagement in North China. In Li and Cribb (eds.), Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895-1945, 1895-1945, London: RoutledgeCurzon.

(2001) Regional Office and the National Interest: Song Zheyuan in north China, 1933-1937. In Barrett and Shyu (eds.) Chinese Collaboration with Japan, 1932-1945: the limits of accommodation, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

(2000) North China and Japanese encroachment, 1933-37: regional power and the national interest, Richmond: Curzon.

Publications - Teaching

(2016) Foundations of Chinese Identity: place, past and culture. In Xiaowei Zang (ed.) Understanding Chinese Society. (2nd ed.) London: Routledge.

(2013) The Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976. In Naomi Standen (ed.) Demystifying China: new understandings of Chinese history. Lanham, MD.:Rowman and Littlefield.