The Old city area viewed from the sky

The Old city area viewed from the sky

jeudi 1 octobre 2009

International Workshop on history and visual documents

An international workshop on history and visual documents is to be held on October 7-9, 2009 at Santa Lucia di Talla (Corsica). The workshop is part of a series of meetings held over the years on the issue of history and the use of visual documents. This initiative taken by Prof. Yeh Wen-hsin (History Department, UC Berkeley) and Prof. Christian Henriot (Institut d'Asie Orientale, Institut Universitaire de France) followed their initial involvement in the creation of a databank of historical photographs of Shanghai funded by the France-Berkeley Fund.

The October 2009 workshop will encourage participants to tackle a bit more issues of methodology and narrative. Its broad theme -- Visual, Representations, Materiality and Narratives -- however is meant to suggest an open exploration of the various dimensions visual sources entail for historical knowledge. The historical discipline is rooted in the careful analysis of textual documents through elaborate methods crafted by generations of historians. The pre-eminence of the written world has found its manifestation in the reliance on archives as the primary material of the historian. These foundations have been shaken by post-modern critics who argued that archives were like all other historical documents, a form of narrative that offered no more guarantee of objectivity than other productions such as the press or even literary texts. This challenge has redefined the way historians ‘think’ and mobilize their sources in the reconstruction of the past.

The study of visual documents goes beyond the field of history, of course. It is a complex field that takes all forms of visual production and representation as its targets of investigation. The production and circulation of visual documents generate for any given period a particular visual culture that sets the environment within which individual documents (whatever their nature) has to be approached. Who does what and when and how does it become visual, in what historical relations do specific images stand to others, what is the social life of an image, what is the relationship between a social actor and the image? Thus the visual offers itself as both material and representational. It is to understand this duality and its implications and to find answers to these types of questions that scholars will get together at the 2009 workshop on history & images.

mercredi 16 septembre 2009

Shanghai Stock Exchange Project

For "number crunchers", and all those with an interest in Shanghai's economic development, it will be worth checking out the web site set up by a group of economists at Yale University on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

"The project is about Chinese capital markets (1870-1940). The Shanghai Stock Exchange History Research Project is an on-going research effort by the International Center of Finance to collect price and dividend information on stocks that were listed in the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) during the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries."

"The market for securities trading in Shanghai begins in late 1860s. More specifically, in June 1866, a list of thirteen companies, including the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, appeared in a local newspaper under the 'Shares and Stocks' section. According to the English newspaper in Shanghai, The North-China Herald this is the time that a 'regular system of dealing in Shares sprang up'. The operation of Shanghai stock exchange comes to a halt on December 8, 1941 when the Japanese took hold of the International Settlement. After the war ended, China assumed full control over Shanghai, the legal privilege and means of enforcing financial contracts for foreign businessmen had gone. The Shanghai Stock Exchange, as a foreign share brokers' association, never reopened again."

The web site provides downlable annual price data for all the securities listed in the Shanghai Stock Exchange from 1870 to 1940, as well as constructed indexes for the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which can be also be downloaded. This is a very rare project in Chinese economic history.

mercredi 26 août 2009

New Japanese Books on Shanghai

Two recent publications from Japan bring new perspectives on Shanghai history.

The first one is the edited volume published by the Japanese Association for Research on Shanghai History (日本上海史研究会), a major and regular contributor to Shanghai history through a multi-volume series. The last volume is the edited proceedings of a conference held in 2008 in Tokyo: Kenkoku zengo no Shanhai 建國前後の上海 (Shanghai around the time of the birth of the P.R.C.). The 15-contribution volume examines a variety of issues the city met with during the transition period before and after the civil war.

The second volume is a much awaited study of the Japanese community in Shanghai before 1949. It is authored by Prof. Hirofumi Takatsuna 高綱博文, the leading figure of Shanghai studies in Japan: , 'Kokusai toshi' Shanhai no naka no nihonjin '國際都市' 上海のなかの日本人. This is the most thorough study of one of the most influential foreign communities in modern Shanghai.

mardi 21 juillet 2009

An artistic rendering of the Shanghai Bund

One of the marvels of the Internet is the unlimited supply of new materials on any topic. Shanghai keeps attracting the attention of scholars, journalists, and...artists. Simon Fieldhouse is an Australian artist specializing in drawings of historical monuments and sites, although he produces a wider range of art works.
Among his rich body of works, Simon Fieldhouse produced a complete series of drawings of the historical buildings on the Shanghai Bund, with a skyline of the whole Bund and an accurate numbering of the individual buildings.
The series is available on his web site:
This is a wonderful resource for art historians and historians alike. It provides elegant sketches of each of the buildings that were once the proud display of the companies that built them. It forms a unique collection of visual materials about the Shanghai Bund.

samedi 30 mai 2009

Virtual Shanghai Bookmarks

Virtual Shanghai has now produced a research-oriented set of bookmarks on Netvibes. This was a long-time plan that was delayed for lack of adequate tools. Netvibes provides a neat interface for such a purpose.

The bookmarks are organized under six headings (tabs): Photographic collections, Map collections, Map tools, History & New Media, History & GIS, East Asia Maps. The General tab introduces to the purpose of the bookmarks.

The list of bookmarks, as well as the headings will be up-dated regularly, so as to maintain an effective tool for research.

Check it out at: or from the Virtual Shanghai Platform: Toolbox menu.

samedi 23 mai 2009

Shanghai Maps: Secrets, lies, and urban icons

Maps are an essential tool for the study of cities. Yet, as a wealth of studies have demonstrated, maps are not straightforward and genuine renditions of reality. They are documents produced for a purpose by a wide range social, economic and political actors with their own agendas. The new essay on Virtual Shanghai [see Texts -> Essays] presents a study of maps and map-making after 1949. "Shanghai in post-1949 maps: Secrets, Lies and Urban Icons" argues that political considerations and tight control on map-making led to the production of increasingly sanitized maps in addition to a clear distortion of the physical space represented therein. Would the study of other cities in China reveal similar patterns? Were the authorities in the former Soviet Union and its allied countries also involved in such misrepresentations of space and control over map-making? The second part of the paper examines map covers in their use to represent the city through buildings or places deemed to best embody the city. Icons changed over time, with the Huangpu River ad its banks as the most consistent symbol of Shanghai.

dimanche 10 mai 2009

Visual narratives: there are two new visual narratives on VS: "Trajectories: Women in China", I & II. This is an attempt at presenting a macro-argument through images (photographs and illustrations). It is part of an exploration of methodological issues conducted with a group of scholars involved in another project, Common People and Artist. This is an on-going research project. Yet it is also proposed as material for classroom teaching. Feedback on this aspect is also welcome.

mercredi 6 mai 2009

Opening of the "Virtual Shanghai Blog"

Virtual Shanghai has benefited a lot from inputs and contributions by many people on the WWW. With this blog, I hope to maintain a regular line of information about the evolution of the platform and communicate on new additions. The blog is also designed to allow users, readers, and visitors to send feedback and express opinions, advice, proposals, etc.

Welcome to the Virtual Shanghai Blog! I look forward to reading your posts. Messages in English, français, deutsch, espanol, italiano, corsu, 中文 are all accepted.