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Fragile Bulwark: The Qing State in Jinan during the Taiping and Nian Wars

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Knorr, Daniel 


During the 1850s and 1860s, Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong, faced repeated threats from Taiping and Nian forces, but Qing control was never seriously contested. The limited capacities of both the provincial administration and local elites necessitated governmental-elite collaboration, such as in forming militias and building defensive structures. These efforts were successful in preserving Qing control of Jinan across this period. However, the limited capacities of both the local government and elites became increasingly evident during attacks by Nian forces on Shandong in the 1860s, which left the city of Jinan itself defended as securely as ever but the surrounding countryside devastated. This history of a place that was a relative success story for the Qing both adds nuance to existing narratives of straightforward state decline in north China while still allowing us to see how the limits of elite power proved a constraint on state capacity as well. The involvement of both officials and elites in post-war reconstruction projects that echo themes in existing scholarship on the south demonstrates how the mid-nineteenth century conflicts generated long-term cultural effects that were shared across regions of the empire. In Jinan, these projects demonstrate how the construction of local history bound the city and its elite class to the Qing state, calling into question arguments that the increasingly powerful roles elites played in public spaces in the late Qing necessarily posed a challenge to the Qing state. Rather, in both war and peace, elite participation continued to be an integral element of maintaining the Qing state.



43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4303 Historical Studies, 4705 Literary Studies

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