The civil service system is undoubtedly one of China’s most precious intellectual gifts to the West”, the famous sinologist Derk Bodde claimed in 1948. According to Bodde, the competitive examination of officers originating in China is the key feature of modern bureaucracy. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he claims, Chinese ideas acted as the decisive model for the development of the modern Civil Service in the West, namely in Britain and France. While not always formulated in such a categorical manner, this idea of a Chinese origin of and influence on modern-style bureaucracy remains widespread, serving as a topical counter-example against the marginalization of Chinese history in Eurocentric narratives. And indeed, there is ample evidence that the Chinese example was well known and often admired in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Based mostly on the British case, I will nevertheless argue that this narrative of Chinese influence is highly misleading: It almost totally fails to take into account the history of administrative reforms in Europe and it treats its own pivotal point – the very introduction of a competitive examination system – superficially. Based on a more balanced account and a methodological critique I will offer a revised reading of mid-nineteenth-century references to the Chinese examination system.
Sebastian Meurer is Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at the Institute of History, University of Duisburg-Essen. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 2014. His doctoral thesis is titled “A System of Oeconomy. Approaches to Public Administration in Britain and British India at the Beginning of the Age of Reform.”
Do. 28. Januar 2016, 18:00 (c.t.)
Freie Universität Berlin, Fabeckstr. 23-25
Neubau „Holzlaube“, Raum 2.2059
28.01.2016 | 18:00 c.t.
Raum 2.2059 "Holzlaube"