Patricia Ebrey

Patricia Ebrey

Professor Emerita
University of Washington

Patricia Ebrey is a historian of China who has worked on many topics over the last forty-plus years, with her primary interests in social and cultural history, especially of the Song dynasty. Best-known books are The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Women in the Sung Period (1993), The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (1996, 2010, 2022), and Emperor Huizong (2014). She recently retired as professor of history at the University of Washington but continues to serve as editor of the Journal of Chinese History.

Research project

China’s Repeated Unifications, 300-1300   "The central question running through the book I am now tentatively titling "Big Questions about Chinese History" will be China’s size in population. Why has China been the biggest country in the world for so much of its history? And why are there today so many Han Chinese? At the time of the Roman Empire, the Han and Roman empires were comparable, but the Roman Empire eventually split in two, and each part in time broke up. In China, by contrast, centralized empires as impressive as the Han were put together several more times. Key unifications occurred during the period from 300 to 1300, so this book will give much of its attention to this period. The first half of the book will examine the resiliency of the imperial system, with chapters on the military side of unifications, ways civilian elites were co-opted, how dynasties could last for centuries, how crises were managed, and how ethnic others were ruled. The second half will look at the growth of the Han Chinese population, beginning with the genomic evidence, then turning to marriage practices, migration, and conceptions of ethnic identity. An effort will be made to keep the book short and lively enough to appeal to scholars outside the Chinese history field, including world history teachers."