In Our Time: History

In Our Time: History

BBC Radio 4

Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

Catégories: Education

Écoutez le dernier épisode:

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the woman who, for almost fifty years, was the most powerful figure in the Chinese court. Cixi (1835-1908) started out at court as one of the Emperor's many concubines, yet was the only one who gave him a son to succeed him and who also possessed great political skill and ambition. When their son became emperor he was still a young child and Cixi ruled first through him and then, following his death, through another child emperor. This was a time of rapid change in China, when western powers and Japan humiliated the forces of the Qing empire time after time, and Cixi had the chance to push forward the modernising reforms the country needed to thrive. However, when she found those reforms conflicted with her own interests or those of the Qing dynasty, she was arguably obstructive or too slow to act and she has been personally blamed for some of those many humiliations even when the fault lay elsewhere.


Yangwen Zheng Professor of Chinese History at the University of Manchester

Rana Mitter The S.T. Lee Professor of US-Asia Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School


Ronald Po Associate Professor in the Department of International History at London School of Economics and Visiting Professor at Leiden University

Producer: Simon Tillotson In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio Production

Reading list:

Pearl S. Buck, Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (first published 1956; Open Road Media, 2013)

Katharine A. Carl, With the Empress Dowager (first published 1906; General Books LLC, 2009)

Jung Chang, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (Jonathan Cape, 2013)

Princess Der Ling, Old Buddha (first published 1929; Kessinger Publishing, 2007) Joseph W. Esherick, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising (University of California Press, 1987)

John K. Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (Harvard University Press, 2006)

Peter Gue Zarrow and Rebecca Karl (eds.), Rethinking the 1898 Reform Period: Political and Cultural Change in Late Qing China (Harvard University Press, 2002)

Grant Hayter-Menzies, Imperial Masquerade: The Legend of Princess Der Ling (Hong Kong University Press, 2008)

Keith Laidler, The Last Empress: The She-Dragon of China (Wiley, 2003)

Keith McMahon, Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020)

Anchee Min, The Last Empress (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Ying-Chen Peng, Artful Subversion: Empress Dowager Cixi’s Image Making (Yale University Press, 2023).

Sarah Pike Conger, Letters from China: with Particular Reference to the Empress Dowager and the Women of China (first published 1910; Forgotten Books, 2024)

Stephen Platt, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age (Atlantic Books, 2019)

Liang Qichao (trans. Peter Zarrow), Thoughts From the Ice-Drinker's Studio: Essays on China and the World (Penguin Classics, 2023)

Sterling Seagrave, Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China (Vintage, 1993)

Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China (first published 1991; W. W. Norton & Company, 2001)

X. L. Woo, Empress Dowager Cixi: China's Last Dynasty and the Long Reign of a Formidable Concubine (Algora Publishing, 2003)

Zheng Yangwen, Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History (Manchester University Press, 2018)

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