Bertrand Russell and China During and After His Visit in 1920
CitationPaisley, John. 2020. Bertrand Russell and China During and After His Visit in 1920. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractBertrand Russell visited China in late 1920 to teach philosophy at Peking University. He expected his sabbatical to relieve his stressful experience of the First World War. Instead, he entered China in the midst of what is now called the May Fourth Movement, a groundbreaking period in which a “New Culture” was being constructed in response to China’s persistent international weakness. Many Chinese looked to Russell for answers on its social reconstruction, and in view of this fact his visit is often dismissed as having had no impact. But this misreads Russell’s own intentions for his trip, while also ignoring the several years he spent advocating for China in Britain after he returned. This thesis provides a full history of Bertrand Russell’s connection to China in the years 1920–27. Using Chinese language sources, it reconstructs his time in China from October 1920 to July 1921. This story, much of it focusing on Chinese responses to Russell, provides another angle from which to view the May Fourth period—the experiences of a sympathetic Western philosopher hailed as a “Second Confucius” upon arrival. It then turns to Russell’s impact on the British side of the relationship. At his welcome banquet in Shanghai on October 14, 1920, Bertrand Russell balked at his host’s request for advice on how to “fix” China, instead responding “how could I presume to lecture China on its reconstruction? China is not alone in this need; Europe too needs reconstruction. It is through the reformation of Europe that I hope to play a role in assisting the Chinese people!” This thesis finds that when Russell’s visit is viewed in this light, his indirect impact on China was more significant and lasting.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365614