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The Economic History of China: From Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century

The UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a book symposium on China's economic history.

May 25, 2018 12:00pm to 5:00pm

China's extraordinary rise as an economic powerhouse in the past two decades poses a challenge to many long-held assumptions about the relationship between political institutions and economic development. Economic prosperity also was vitally important to the longevity of the Chinese Empire throughout the preindustrial era. Before the eighteenth century, China's economy shared some of the features, such as highly productive agriculture and sophisticated markets, found in the most advanced regions of Europe. But in many respects, from the central importance of irrigated rice farming to family structure, property rights, the status of merchants, the monetary system, and the imperial state's fiscal and economic policies, China's preindustrial economy diverged from the Western path of development. In this comprehensive but accessible study, Richard von Glahn examines the institutional foundations, continuities and discontinuities in China's economic development over three millennia, from the Bronze Age to the early twentieth century.


After completing an undergraduate degree majoring in Chinese at Connecticut College, Richard Von Glahn pursued graduate study in Chinese history at UC Berkeley (M.A.) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1983). He held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and the University of Rochester and an assistant professorship at Connecticut College before he joined the UCLA faculty in 1987. His primary field of research is the economic and social history of premodern China, with a particular focus on the period 1000-1700. His publications include four monographs in Chinese history, several edited books, and a co-authored textbook in world history.  His most recent book is The Economic History of China from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2016). Among his current projects, he is co-editing (with Debin Ma of the London School of Economics) The Cambridge Economic History of China (scheduled for publication in 2020) and serving as a senior editor for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia for Asian History, an on-line resource for scholars. In addition, he continues to pursue research in Chinese monetary history, especially the interrelationship between China’s monetary system and wider spheres of monetary circulation within Asia and on a global scale, and have embarked on a new project on the economic history of maritime East Asia from the ninth to the eighteenth centuries.



William Rowe, Johns Hopkins University, John and Diane Cooke Professor of Chinese History

Larry D. Neal, University of Illinois, Professor Emeritus of Economics

Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Caltech, Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics

Meng Zhang, Loyola Marymount University, History, Assistant Professor