Henrietta Harrison (沈艾娣)


Professor of Chinese History; Stanley Ho Tutorial Fellow of Pembroke College 

Faculty / College Address:

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern StudiesPembroke College



Research Interests:

I am a historian and my main interest is in what ordinary people’s lives have been like in China from the Qing dynasty until today.  I am also enthusiastic about writing the kind of history that tells stories as well as making arguments.  Both of my most recent books have been micro-histories and I have made extensive use of fieldwork in China, especially conducting oral history interviews and collecting village-level materials, as well as using more conventional archives and libraries.

My research has included the 1911 revolution, nationalism, Confucianism in the twentieth-century, Catholicism, interactions between China and Europe, and above all the history of Shanxi province.  I have worked across different periods, writing two books about the early twentieth century, and two that go back to the eighteenth century.  My current research is on experiences of the 1949 revolution in China.

Current Projects:

  • A history of the 1949 Communist Revolution in China with an emphasis on ideas and experiences of the revolution.

Courses Taught:

  • China and the World
  • History and Historiography of Modern China
  • Modern China
  • Life in China under Mao

Recent Publications:


The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021.

Intercultural Diplomacies co-edited with Nadine Amsler and Christian Windler.  Special issue of International History Review 5 (2019).

The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

Chinese translation: 沈艾娣《 傳教士的詛咒》郭伟全译。香港中文大学出版社, 2021。

The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village 1857-1942.Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Chinese translation: 沈艾娣 《夢醒子:一位華北鄉居者的人生(1857-1942)》 趙妍杰译, 北京大学出版社, 2013.

The Making of the Republican Citizen: Ceremonies and Symbols in China, 1911-1929. Contemporary China Institute Series, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Journal Articles

“The Power of the Interpreter in Intercultural Negotiations: Li Zibiao and the 1793 Macartney Embassy to China” International History Review 5 (2019)。

“Chinese and British Diplomatic Gifts in the Macartney Embassy of 1793” English Historical Review 133.560 (March 2018).

麦传世与《默想神工略说》──管窥清中叶甘肃地区天主教传播情况 [Francesco Jovino and On the Divine Task of Meditation: An insight into the circumstances of Catholic evangelism in mid-Qing Gansu] co-written with Guo Ting 郭婷 . 宗教與歷史 2018.

“The Qianlong Emperor’s Letter to George III and the Early Twentieth-Century Origins of Ideas about Traditional China’s Foreign Relations” American Historical Review  122.3 (2017).

Chinese translation: “《乾隆皇帝谕英王乔治三世敕书》与有关传统中国对外关系之观点在20世纪早期的形成” (张丽 ,杨阳译)  全球史评论20 (2021).

“The Experience of Illness in Early Twentieth-century Rural Shanxi” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 42 (2015).

“Chinese Catholic Visionaries and the Socialist Education Movement in Shanxi (1963-65)” The Catholic Historical Review 100.4 (2014).

“Popular Responses to the Atomic Bomb in China 1945-1955” Past and Present 218 (2013).

“Rethinking Missionaries and Medicine in China: The Miracles of Assunta Pallotta, 1905-2005” Journal of Asian Studies 71.1 (2012).

Chinese translation: “修女亚松达的圣迹:反思近代中国与欧洲的宗教医疗空间 ” (张安琪,曹新宇 译)新史学 10 (2019).

“British Imperialism, French Charity and the Changing Behaviour of Italian Franciscan Missionaries in China, 1800 to 1850” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 15.4 (2010).

“A Penny for the Little Chinese”: The French Holy Childhood Association in China, 1843-1951.” American Historical Review 113.1 (2008). 

Chinese translation: “‘请捐一分钱给中国小朋友‘:天主教圣婴会在中国,1843-1951” (蔡丹妮译 )全球史评论.

“Narcotics, Nationalism and Class in China: The Transition from Opium to Morphine and Heroin in early 20th Century Shanxi" East Asian History 32/33 (2006/2007).

"Clothing and Power on the Periphery of Empire: The Costumes of the Indigenous People of Taiwan". Positions: East Asian Cultural Critique 11.2 (2003).

"Shanxi zhongbu Jinhe shuili xitong yu difang shehui" [The Jin River irrigation system and local society in central Shanxi] Lishi renleixue [Historical Anthropology] 1.1 (2003).

"Newspapers and Nationalism in Rural China, 1890-1919" Past and Present 166 (2000).

(Reprinted in Jeffrey Wasserstrom ed., Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches. Routledge, 2002.) 

Chapters in Edited Volumes

“Global Modernity, Local Community and Spiritual Power in the Shanxi Catholic Church.” In Adam Chau ed. Religious Revitalization and Innovation in Contemporary China. Routledge, 2010.

"Village Industries and the Making of Rural-urban Difference in Early Twentieth-Century Shanxi". In Jacob Eyferth ed., How China Works: Perspectives on the Twentieth-century Industrial Workplace. Routledge, 2006.

Further Info:

Doctoral Supervision

I have supervised doctoral dissertations in a wide variety of areas of modern Chinese history, but I particularly welcome enquiries from students with interests in social, cultural, and local history.

Current Students:

Former Students:

Thomas Barrett, Foreigners and the Making of the Chinese Diplomat, 1877-1928. Link to current website: Dr Thomas P. Barrett | Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (cam.ac.uk)

Mark Czeller, Non-People in the People’s Republic: ‘Landlords’ and ‘Rich Peasants’ under Maoist State Socialism.  Link to current website: Mark Czellér | Institute of Historical Research (history.ac.uk)

Photograph of Henrietta Harrison