Family Background, Appointment and Promotion in the Qing (1644-1911) Civil Service: New Perspectives from Historical Big Data

Event time: 
Monday, November 2, 2020 - 10:00am to 11:30am
Location: 
Online () See map
Event description: 

We examine the influence of family background on appointment, promotion, and career length in the Qing civil service for officials who held provincial juren and national jinshi examination degrees and served between 1830 and 1912. For the analysis, we link three generations of family background information on exam degree holders to detailed and complete data on the appointment and career trajectories of officeholders in the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q), which currently contains 4.1 million records of 345,071 officials. We show that family background influences on appointment and careers mattered more for jinshi than for juren, even though the former were more highly selected based on education. Based on these results, we argue that examination, appointment and promotion encompassed multiple ladders of success, and that candidates differed in terms of their strategies and their goals. This stands in contrast to the traditional and highly idealized conceptualization of the examination system as one in which candidates all had the same goal of obtaining a jinshi and were screened with increasing rigor based on their ability through a series of exams. Mapping the social origins of officials with exam degrees and understanding how family background and exam performance interacted to shape their subsequent career mobility informs longstanding debates about the permeability of national elites during the Qing and yields insight into the multigenerational stratification processes in the composition of a national political elite.
Cameron Campbell’s research focuses on demography, stratification and inequality, especially in China and in comparative perspective. With other members of the Lee-Campbell group, he studies the Qing civil service and the careers of the officials who composed it by construction and analysis of a database of office holders called the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q). He continues research on kinship, inequality, and demographic behavior in China and in comparative perspective using large multi-generational population databases, most notably the China Multigenerational Panel Datasets (CMGPD). His papers have appeared in such journals as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Demography, Population Studies, and Demographic Research. His books Fate and Fortune in Rural China and Life Under Pressure were published by Cambridge and MIT Press, respectively. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow and Changjiang Scholar. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. He earned his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995 and his BS at Caltech in 1989.

Speaker/Performer: 
Cameron Campbell - Professor of Social Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology