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Hans van de Ven

University of Cambridge

Educated at Leiden University and Harvard, Hans van de Ven is Professor of Modern Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Studies at Cambridge University. Hans has spent his entire professional academic career at Cambridge, enjoying its small group teaching, its many seminars, and multiple opportunities to meet a wide range of fellow scholars. The courses he teaches, something which he has come to realize as being a valuable privilege, include surveys of modern Chinese history, China’s experience of globalization, and China’s modern military history. Hans has spent his sabbaticals in China and Taiwan, using archives and libraries there and meeting with fellow historians, experiences that have impacted his research in major ways. Hans’s first book was From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1921-27 (1992). Realizing that little scholarship existed on the violence that engulfed China during the last century and a half, Hans turned to military history, publishing War and Nationalism in China (2012) and China at War (2017). His work on China’s globalization resulted from a chance conversation with an archivist at Nanjing’s Second Historical Archives of China, who revealed that this archive housed more than 50,000 files, largely in English, produced by the Chinese Customs Service. This unique agency, subordinate to Beijing but staffed at its upper levels by foreigners from many European countries, Japan, and the United States, was responsible for assessing duties on China’s foreign trade, managing its ports and coast guard, and several other responsibilities. It also delivered a substantial revenue stream to Beijing. After many years of work to make this archive available to researchers, Hans produced Breaking with the Past: The Chinese Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China (2014). Most of Hans’s books have been translated into Chinese. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.