Elisabeth Kaske-Modern Languages - Carnegie Mellon University

Elisabeth Kaske

Associate Professor of Chinese Studies

Department of Modern Languages
Carnegie Mellon University
Baker Hall 160
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Office: BH 369
Phone: (412) 268-1971
Fax: (412) 268-1328
Department Member Since: 2010


In my research, I focus on the historical study of late nineteenth and early twentieth century China, covering various disciplines including military history, language policies and sociolinguistics, as well as social and fiscal studies. My main interest concerns the question of how societies open up to or resist social change, and why regimes crumble or maintain stability. In an age of frequent externally or internally induced regime change, this is an important question with far-reaching implications for the modern day. In my book on language policies, I tried to abandon the usual narrative of language reform as the inevitable path towards progress, and explored resistance to language reform that could have led to alternative paths of development. My current project has led me to explore how the legal sale of public offices by the state contributed to the restoration and maintenance of regime stability after the Taiping Rebellion, but at the same time helped to prevent thorough fiscal reforms.


Ph. D., Heidelberg University, 2006

Recent Work

Book Project

Deploying Symbolic Capital: The Political Economy of Office Selling in Late Qing China

Previous Books

The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895–1919. Leiden: Brill, 2008, 573 pp.

Bismarcks Missionäre: Deutsche Militärinstrukteure in China 1884–1890 (Bismarck’s Missionaries: German Military Instructors in China, 1884–1890). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002, 293 pp.

[Edited:] Georg Baur: China um 1900: Aufzeichnungen eines Krupp-Direktors (China around 1900: Diary of a Krupp Director), edited and commented by Elisabeth Kaske. Weimar: Böhlau, 2005, 782 pp.


Articles on Báihuà 白話 (Vernacular Written Chinese), National Language Movement, Stenography, Chinese and Japanese, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics. General Editor Rint Sybesma. Brill Online, 2016.

“Silver, Copper, Rice, and Debt: Monetary Policy and Office Selling in China during the Taiping Rebellion,” in Money in Asia (1200–1900): Small Currencies in Social and Political Contexts, ed. by Jane Kate Leonard and Ulrich Theobald, Leiden: Brill, 2015, 343-395.

“Total War: Military Supplies and Civilian Resources during China’s Era of Rebellions,” in Chinese and Indian Warfare: From the Classical Age to 1870, ed. by Peter Lorge and Kaushik Roy, Routledge, 2014, 257-288.

“Diglossia and its Discontent: The Linguistics of National Crisis in Early Twentieth Century China,” in: Divided Languages? Diglossia, Translation and the Rise of Modernity in Japan, China, and the Slavic World, ed. by Judith Arokay and Jadranka Gvozdanovic, Springer, 2014, 39-54.

“The Revenue Imperative: Silver vs. Copper Coin in Government Finance in 1850s China,” Three Conferences on International Monetary History, ed. Georges Depeyrot. Moneta: Wetteren, 2013, 325-365.

“Metropolitan Clerks and Venality in Qing China: The Great 1830 Forgery Case,” T’oung-pao 98:1 (2012), 217-269.

“Fund-Raising Wars: Office Selling and Interprovincial Finance in Nineteenth Century China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 71.1 (June 2011), 69–141.

“The Price of an Office: Venality, the Individual and the State in 19th Century China,” in Metals, Monies, and Markets in Early Modern Societies: East Asian and Global Perspectives, ed. by Nanny Kim and Thomas Hirzel. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008, 279–304.

“Wan Qing zai Hua de Deguo jiaoguan gaikuang 晚清在华的德国教官概况” (German military instructors in late Qing China), Beida Shixue 北大史学 13 (2008), 303–348.

Courses Taught

  • 82-187 Money and Morality in Chinese Culture
  • 82-230/79-337 The Great Divergence Debate in Chinese Economic History
  • 82-333 China’s Imperial Tradition
  • 82-333 Modern Chinese Culture
  • 82-431 China and the West
  • 82-433 Media, Culture, and Society [in Chinese]
  • 82-440 Local Culture in China [in Chinese]
  • 82-440 The Rise of Power: Chinese Society and Officialdom Literature [in Chinese]