Sociological forum (Fall 2020-2021): Family background, appointment and promotion in the Qing Civil Service – Perspectives from big historical dataBy Professor Cameron Campbell, HKUST
Tue 3 Nov 2020
We examine the influence of family background on appointment, promotion, and career length in the Qing civil service for officials who held provincial juren and national jinshi examination degrees and served between 1830 and 1912. For the analysis, we link three generations of family background information on exam degree holders to detailed and complete data on the initial appointment and subsequent careers of officeholders in the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q), which currently contains 4.1 million records of 345,071 officials. We show that family background influences on appointment and careers mattered more for jinshi than for juren, even though the former were more highly selected based on education. Based on these results, we argue that examination, appointment and promotion encompassed multiple ladders of success, and that candidates differed in terms of their strategies and their goals. This stands in contrast to the traditional and highly idealized conceptualization of the examination system as one in which candidates all had the same goal of obtaining a jinshi and were screened with increasing rigor based on their ability through a series of exams.
Mapping the social origins of officials with exam degrees and understanding how family background and exam performance interacted to shape their subsequent career mobility informs longstanding debates about the permeability of national elites during the Qing and yields insight into multigenerational stratification processes in the composition of a national political elite.
Cameron Campbell’s research focuses on demography, stratification and inequality, especially in China and in comparative perspective. With other members of the Lee-Campbell group, he studies the Qing civil service and the careers of the officials who composed it by construction and analysis of a large database of office holders called the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q). He continues research on kinship, inequality, and demographic behavior in China and in comparative perspective using large multi-generational population databases, most notably the China Multigenerational Panel Datasets (CMGPD). His papers have appeared insuch journals as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Demography, Population Studies and Demographic Research. His books Fate and Fortune in Rural China and Life Under Pressure were published by Cambridge and MIT Press, respectively.
He is Professor of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and has a pending appointment as Distinguished Professor in the School of History and Culture at Central China Normal University. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow and Changjiang Scholar. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. He earned his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995 and his BS at Caltech in 1989. His website is https://camerondcampbell.blog.
The zoom link – https://hku.zoom.us/j/99170605450