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Professor Julia Lovell

Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature
BA, MA, MPhil, PhD

Contact Details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 314
27 Russell Square,

Tel: 020 7079 0604


  • Julia Lovell has worked at Birkbeck since 2007. Before then, she was Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge; she also studied for a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Centre for Chinese Studies.

Research and teaching

  • Research interests
  • My research has so far focused principally on the relationship between culture (specifically, literature, architecture, historiography and sport) and modern Chinese nation-building. I am now working on a global history of Maoism (to be published by Bodley Head), which will explore the ways in which Maoist politics and culture travelled beyond China after the 1940s to become an international political force in Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe. Like my earlier work, my new book will move between China’s own modern history and its collision with the outside world – to understand the story of modern China, it will argue, we have to understand its international dimension. I am also an active translator of Chinese literature into English; I am currently completing a new abridgement of the canonical 16th-century novel, The Journey to the West, for Penguin.
  • Teaching interests
  • I offer BA and MA courses on modern East Asia, 20th-century China, the Cold War, global communism, modern Chinese literature, Asian nationalisms and the history of encounters between China and the West. From 2018/19 I will be offering a new MA option, 'Repertoires of Resistance: Protest and Rebellion from the Russian Revolution to the Umbrella Movement.
  • PhD supervision
  • I am interested in supervising students working on any aspect of modern China (especially cultural, intellectual and political history) and on China’s relations with the world beyond its borders.


  • Books
  • Maoism: A Global History (Bodley Head, 2019)
  • Splendidly Fantastic: Architecture and Power Games in China (Strelka Press, 2012)
  • The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China (Picador/Macmillan, 2011)
  • The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature (Hawai’i University Press, 2006)
  • The Great Wall (Atlantic Books, 2006)
  • (Selected Translations)
  • The Matchmaker, The Apprentice and the Football Fan, by Zhu Wen (Columbia University Press, 2013)
  • The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Stories of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun (Penguin Classics, 2009)
  • Serve the People, by Yan Lianke (Constable and Robinson, 2008)
  • I Love Dollars, by Zhu Wen (Columbia University Press, 2007)
  • Lust, Caution, by Zhang Ailing (Penguin Classics, 2007)
  • A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (Columbia University Press, 2003)
  • Selected journal articles
  • "Les guerres to l'Opium". In Histoire du monde au XIXe siècle, Pierre Singaravélou and Sylvain Venayre eds. (Editions Fayard, Paris, 2017): 266-269
  • "From Beijing to Palestine: Zhang Chengzhi's Journeys from Red Guard Radicalism to Global Islam." In Journal of Asian Studies 75.4 (November 2016): 891-911
  • "The Cultural Revolution and Its Legacies in International Perspective". In China Quarterly 227 (September 2016): 632-652
  • “The Uses of Foreigners in Mao-Era China: ‘Techniques of Hospitality’ and International Image-Building in the People’s Republic, 1949-1976.” In Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 25 (2015): 135-158.
  • “Undesired Outcomes: China’s Approach to Border Disputes during the Early Cold War” (with Zhihua Shen). In Cold War History 15.1 (2015): 89-111.
  • “The Century of Humiliation.” In Naomi Standen ed., Demystifying China: New Understandings of Chinese History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013): 153-160.
  • “Finding A Place: Chinese Literature in the 2000s.” In Journal of Asian Studies, 71.1 (February 2012): 7-32.
  • “Sinophone Literature in the Global Canon: The Quest for Recognition.” In David Wang and Jing Tsu eds., Global Chinese Literature (Brill, Leiden, 2010): 197-217.
  • “Beijing 2008: The Mixed Messages of Contemporary Chinese Nationalism.” In The International Journal of the History of Sport, 27.7 (2008): 758-778.
  • “Gao Xingjian, the Nobel Prize and Chinese Intellectuals: Notes on the Aftermath of the Nobel Prize 2000”. In Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, fall issue 2002: 1-50.
  • Lectures
  • I have lectured at UK venues including Asiahouse (London), the universities of Cambridge and Oxford and the National Maritime Museum and at several international literary festivals. In 2016, I will be lecturing at East China Normal University.


Professional membership

  • Fellow of Royal Historical Society; Member of British Association of Chinese Studies and Association of Asian Studies

Honours and awards

  • In 2011, Julia Lovell was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize.
  • The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China won the 2012 Jan Michalski Prize