East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks: Martin Powers - "China and England: The Preindustrial Struggle for Justice in Word and Image" - Virtual Event

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Martin Powers

Martin Powers will discuss China and England: The Preindustrial Struggle for Justice in Word and Image.

Presented in partnership with Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago

Virtual event


About the book: This book examines egalitarian social ideals and institutions that arose in preindustrial China and England, and in the process, uncovers China’s forgotten role in the history of social justice debate and legislation during the eighteenth century. Drawing on a wide range of visual and documentary evidence, the author shows that many prominent individuals in both England and China adopted comparable strategies as a logical response to excesses of privilege and arbitrary power, with educated but non-noble persons taking advantage of print culture, a more literate population, an expanded art market, public spaces and other familiar ‘early modern’ developments to interrogate the system of inherited privilege and promote a more meritocratic society. This shared experience created common ground for transformative exchange between the two great traditions during the eighteenth century. By providing a more global account of what we call Western values, the book shows that early modern China and England had far more in common than is normally supposed, and thus challenges claims on the right and the left that the people of China lacked a concept of social justice and that China’s cultural legacy should be treated as exceptional in regard to human rights.

About the author: Martin Powers is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, University of Michigan. He was formerly Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures, and Director of the Center for Chinese Studies. His research focuses on the role of the arts in the history of human relations in China, with an emphasis on issues of social justice.

About the series: Initiated in 2016, this annual series showcases CEAS faculty, alumni, and special guests who provide author talks and book launches as a way to engage the broader community in conversations regarding key scholarship on East Asia.

Event Location: