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Joseph Esherick: Bandits and Bolsheviks: the Shaanxi-Gansu Base Area before Mao
March 8, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Speaker: Joseph W. Esherick, Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego
In the fall of 1935, Mao read a newspaper article about a Communist base in Northern Shaanxi. He redirected the Long March to that base, which would become the Yan’an-centered “revolutionary holy land” from which the Chinese Communist Party would rise to power during the War of Resistance against Japan and the following Civil War. Yan’an during the war provided Mao and his colleagues an unprecedented degree of security, and that era has been much studied. We know much less about the formation of the base that provided him sanctuary. That is the subject of Esherick’s inquiry.
Joseph W. Esherick is a social historian of social movements in modern China. His dissertation and first monograph, Reform and Revolution in China: the 1911 Revolution in Hunan and Hubei explored the social background of China’s republican revolution. His book on The Origins of the Boxer Uprising won the Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association and the Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies. His most recent monograph, Ancestral Leaves, explored the tumultuous history of nineteenth and twentieth-century China through the successive generations of one family. In 1988, Esherick began a project on the Chinese Communist revolution in Northern Shaanxi, then set it aside for many years in hopes of greater archival access. That hope never materialized, and he has now returned to the project with such documentary and fieldwork materials he has been able to obtain. After forty years of teaching at the University of Oregon and the University of California at San Diego, Esherick retired in 2012 and now lives in Berkeley, California.