Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley

Office: AL 532
Phone: (619) 594-6985 
Email: [email protected]
Curriculum vitae


Ph.D. in History, Indiana University, Bloomington (2002)

M.A. in History, Indiana University, Bloomington (1997)

B.A. in History, Wesleyan University (1992)

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley is Professor of Late Imperial and Modern Chinese History.  Her research focuses on cultural and political responses to major disasters in nineteenth and twentieth-century China, while her teaching interests include World History, famine studies, gender and sexuality, comparative responses to trauma and disaster, and recent Sino-Japanese and Sino-US relations. 

Professor Edgerton-Tarpley’s first book, Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China, examined Confucian constructions of famine during China’s late imperial period. It was published by the University of California Press in 2008, and the Chinese translation of it appeared in China in 2011.  Next, Professor Edgerton-Tarpley conducted extensive archival research on a pair of major disasters that struck Republican-era China in the 1930s and early 1940s, and wrote a series of articles on them. These publications include an article on Yellow River flooding and the Chinese Civil War (Social Science History, 2017), a chapter on the Henan Famine of 1942-43 published in an edited volume titled 1943: China at the Crossroads (Cornell East Asia Series, 2015), and “From ‘Nourish the People’ to ‘Sacrifice for the Nation’: Changing Responses to Disaster in Late Imperial and Modern China” (Journal of Asian Studies, 2014).  Professor Edgerton-Tarpley then began to research state and local-level responses to the catastrophic Mao-era Great Leap Famine of 1958-1962.  In 2018 she and her two children spent six months at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, where she conducted Fulbright-supported archival research on the Mao-era famine. Her current NEH-supported book project maps changes and continuities in Chinese responses to calamity. She employs case studies of three major famines that struck the same area, North China’s densely-populated Henan Province, under governments (late-Qing, Nationalist, and Maoist) with markedly different ideological foundations. Professor Edgerton-Tarpley travels to China regularly to conduct research and share her work at disaster studies conferences held in the PRC. Chinese-language versions of several of her publications have been published in China. 

Professor Edgerton-Tarpley offers survey courses on Asian and World history, upper-division courses such as Ancient and Imperial China, China in Revolution, and Women, Sex, and Power in Chinese History, and graduate seminars on key historiographical debates in the modern China and modern World History fields. She enjoys getting students at all levels interested in Asia, working with current and future public school teachers, and exploring historical themes through East Asian films and literature. 


Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).

《铁泪图: 19 世纪中国对于饥馑的文化反应》 [Chinese language version of Tears from Iron], translated by Cao Xi 曹曦. (Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, 2011).  

Journal Articles

“From Bodhisattva Earth to Man-Made Meat Essence: Famine Foods in Late-Qing, Nationalist, and Maoist China,” Environment and History, 26 (Spring 2020): 105-130.

“饥饿符号学:从新文化史看灾害史研究” [The Semiotics of Starvation: New Cultural History Approaches to Disaster Studies], translated by Zhang Xia.《灾害与历史》 [Disasters and History] 1 (October 2018): 1-18.

“A River Runs Through It: The Yellow River and the Chinese Civil War, 1946-1947.” Social Science History, 41.2 (Summer 2017): 141-173.

“Between War and Water: Farmer, City, and State in China’s Yellow River Flood of 1938-1947.” Agricultural History, 90.1 (Winter 2016): 94-116.

“From ‘Nourish the People’ to ‘Sacrifice for the Nation’: Changing Responses to Disaster in Late Imperial and Modern China.” The Journal of Asian Studies, 73.2 (May 2014): 447-469.

“Tough Choices: Grappling with Famine in Qing China, the British Empire, and Beyond.” Journal of World History, 24.1 (March 2013): 135-176.

“‘Governance with Government:’ Non-State Responses to the North China Famine of 1876-1879.” Berliner China-Hefte/Chinese History and Society, 35 (2009): 33-47.

“The ‘Feminization of Famine,’ The Feminization of Nationalism: Famine and Social Activism in Treaty-port Shanghai, 1876-1879.” Social History, 30.4 (November 2005): 421-443.

“Family and Gender in Famine: Cultural Responses to Disaster in North China, 1876-1879.” Journal of Women’s History, 16.4 (2004): 119-147.

Book Chapters

“Famine in Imperial and Modern China,” an invited, peer-reviewed essay for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. Online Publication Date, March 2017. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.133  

“Saving the Nation, Starving the People? The Henan Famine of 1942-43.” In 1943: China at the Crossroads, edited by Joseph Esherick and Matthew Combs. Ithaca, New York: Cornell East Asia Series, 2015, pp. 323-364.

Chinese translation (edited) of refereed book chapter, “救国或饿死人民? 1942-1943 年河南大饥荒” [Saving the Nation, Starving the People? The Henan Famine of 1942-1943] in《1943 中国在十字路口》[1943: China at the Crossroads], edited by Joseph Esherick and Matthew Combs, translated by Chen Xiao. Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe [Social Sciences Academic Press, 2015], pp. 285-313.

“晚清中国的灾荒与意识形态: 1876-1879 年‘丁戊奇荒’期间关于灾荒成因和防荒问题的对立性阐释” [Famine and Ideology in Late-Qing China: Contending Interpretations of Famine Causation and Prevention during the “Incredible Famine” of 1876-1879]. In《天有凶年:清代灾荒与中国社会》[Unexpected Famine Years: Qing Dynasty Disasters and Chinese Society], edited by Li Wenhai and Xia Mingfang. Beijing: Sanlian Publishing House, 2007, pp. 509-537.