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[Postponed] Lecture: Family Background, Exam Performance, and Official Careers in the Late Qing, 1850-1912
Date: 14 November 2019 
China Studies Programme, School of Modern Languages and Cultures HKU has the pleasure of inviting you to the lecture:

Family Background, Exam Performance, and Official Careers in the Late Qing, 1850-1912 

Professor Cameron Campbell 
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Thursday, November 14, 2019 
4:30pm - 6:30pm 
CPD-LG.07, Centennial Campus, HKU

We revisit longstanding debates on the roles of family background and merit in the attainment of elite status in late imperial China with an examination of the influence of family background on the initial appointment and subsequent career mobility of officials who held examination degrees in the Qing (1644-1911) civil service. We consider three generations of patrilineal family background, including the exam and purchase degrees held by father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and official positions held by father. We focus on officials with an exam degree because while our own research reveals that officials with an exam degree accounted for only a portion of Qing officials, holders of exam degrees receive most of the attention in the literature on national political elites in historical China and they accounted for a large share of the civilians who did reach high office. The examination system is one of the best-known features of the imperial Chinese state, and the subject of a large literature in its own right because the prominent role of the examination system in the recruitment of officials is central to claims that the system was meritocratic. Mapping the social origins of officials appointed based on exam performance, and understanding how family background and exam performance interacted to shape their subsequent career mobility will inform longstanding debates about the permeability of elites during the Qing. Previous studies mostly take success on the examination system as a proxy for membership in the political and bureaucratic elite and do not consider the actual careers of exam degree holders. For this analysis, we make use of a new longitudinal dataset that describes the careers of Qing officials, the China Government Employee Dataset – Qing (CGED-Q), which we have constructed from quarterly editions of the Jinshenlu (縉紳錄). At present the CGED-Q contains 3,264,058 records of 337,192 civil and military officials between the mid-18th century and the beginning of the 20th century. For this analysis, we make use of a subset of the data for the period between 1850 and 1912, where we have nearly continuous coverage. This subset contains 2,397,304 records of 160,820 civil officials. Our multi-generational data on family background is drawn from Huishi (會試) and Xiangshi (鄉試) Tongnianchilu (同年齒錄).

Cameron Campbell (康文林) is Professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research focuses on stratification and inequality, especially in China and in comparative perspective. With other members of the Lee-Campbell group, he is conducting a study of Qing officialdom and the careers of officials by construction and analysis of a database of office holders based on the Jinshenlu (缙绅录) and related sources, and participating in other group projects related to the study of the origins of educational elites in China from the Qing to the present. He is involved in two other major projects that involve the creation and analysis of large, longitudinal, individual-level databases from archival records: a study of the social origins and careers of university students, professionals, and other elites in the first half of the twentieth century and a study of rural society in mainland China from 1949 to the mid-1960s, using village-level microdata. He also continues research on kinship, inequality, and demographic behavior in China and in comparative perspective using large multi-generational population databases that we have constructed, most notably the the China Multigenerational Panel Datasets (CMGPD). In connection with the latter he has published on a wide variety of related topics, including economic, family and social influences on demographic outcomes such as birth, marriage, migration, and death, fertility limitation in historical China, and the role of kin networks in shaping social mobility. Related books were published by MIT Press and Cambridge University Press. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004 and was named a Changjiang Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China in 2017, nominated by Central China Normal University, where he is now a Changjiang Scholar Professor (長江學者講座教授). His papers have appeared in such journals as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Demography, Population Studies, Demographic Research, Social Science and Medicine and other leading journals.

For further information about Cameron Campbell, please visit:
For further information about the China Government Employee Dataset-Qing (CGED-Q), please visit:

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