An Archive for China

People involved in this project

Principal investigator:


School Humanities
Department History
Dates 01 October 2009 - 30 September 2012
Website Historical Photographs of China
Funder AHRC
Collaborator(s) A collaboration between scholars at the University of Bristol, University of Lincoln, the Institut d'Asie Orientale and TGE-Adonis.
Contact person Professor Robert Bickers

More about this project

A collaboration between scholars at the University of Bristol, University of Lincoln, the Institut d'Asie Orientale and TGE-Adonis, this project aims to locate, archive, and disseminate photographs from the substantial holdings of images of modern China held mostly in private hands overseas. These are often of even greater historic interest than might ordinarily be the case, as the destruction of materials inside China in war and revolution in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1966-69 Cultural Revolution, means that there is a relative dearth today of accessible photographic records in China itself. Turmoil in China, and emigration from the country, also led to the development of a large Chinese diaspora. Moreover, thousands of foreigners lived and worked in China between the 1840s and the 1950s, and many thousands more visited for longer or shorter periods. Chinese emigrants, foreign expatriates and visitors alike took, bought or otherwise acquired photographs.

Many of these are in libraries and collections in the West, and in addition our research in modern Chinese history has led us to many interesting private collections. Images from private and public collections are available here. An exhibition of some of this material 'Picturing China 1870-1950: Photographs from British Collections' took place in London, Bath, and Durham in 2007-2008. A further exhibition took place at the Grant Bradley Gallery, Bristol, from 17th January to 21st February 2009. Click here for more details about the exhibitions in England. Collaborators in Spain held an exhibition of photographs from the collection in Pamplona in November 2009. During February, March and April 2011, fifty images from Historical Photographs of China collections were exhibited in three different venues in Navarre, Spain. This exhibition in the Basque country was organised by the Red Navarra de Estudios Chinos (Navarre Network of Chinese Studies), and the Universidad Pública de Navarra (Navarre Public University).