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Charity schools and society in nineteenth-century Ba County

Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
Author: He, Songwei
Scholars have used Qing-era elementary schools to shed light on the strengthening Qing state in rural and peripheral areas, and on the increasing participation of non-bureaucratic elites in local public affairs in the form of monetary support and managerial duties. Using county government archives, local gazetteers and county officials' administrative notes, this thesis builds on existing research by providing a case study of Ba County. It explores the understudied question of how elementary schools were promoted and established at the subcounty level, and how the emergence of these schools changed local power dynamics. Chapter one investigates the process through which the court, local officials, and subcounty non-bureaucratic elites together led to the countywide establishment of charity schools in Ba County, all for their own reasons. The court wished to extend the official school system to the subcounty level to select bureaucrats, promote a uniform culture, and carry out moral transformation. Yet the county government of Ba did not manage to formally regulate these schools throughout the nineteenth century. The endorsement of the government was more symbolic. Almost all charity schools in Ba were locally sponsored and managed. For local non-bureaucratic elites, charity schools were not the extension of official schools established for the purpose of imperial interests, but organizations that aimed to provide financial aid to the poor and help to better develop the community. Chapter two shifts its focus to local society and explores how the school expansion changed local power dynamics. There was an anticlerical trend in the process of establishing charity schools. In addition, the community designation of school trustees for limited terms of office became a common way to run charity schools. Compared to having the donors and the donors' descendants operate the schools, the new school trustee system was friendlier to migrants; it allowed them to share the benefits brought by charity schools. By putting trustees in charge of charity schools, the community in fact chose a more open strategy.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Brown, Jeremy
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