Jonathan Howlett
Lecturer in Modern Asian History



BA (Bristol), MA (Bristol), MPhil (Oxford), PhD (Bristol)

Jonathan Howlett is a Lecturer in Modern Asian History and an historian of modern China (1840-present day). His current research focuses on the first seventeen years of the People's Republic of China (1949-1966), exploring the withdrawal of the foreign presence and the ways in which the Chinese Communist Party attempted to transform the country.

Dr Howlett's research and teaching interests include: the history of Shanghai; decolonisation; China's relationships with other powers (especially the British Empire); the history of different forms of socialism and life in socialist societies; the workings of governments and bureaucracy; and urban transformations.

He has published on the withdrawal of foreign companies from China after 1949 and the consequences of Communist takeovers of British businesses. His other published works include a reappraisal of Liu Shaoqi’s seminal work ‘How to be a Good Communist’ and the transition of the Chinese economy to socialism.

Dr Howlett is a co-founder of York’s Asia Research Group and the China Liaison for the Department of History. He also serves as World Universities Network Global China Group coordinator for the University of York and as Dissertation Coordinator for the Department of History.  He is an elected council member of the British Association for Chinese Studies (2013-2016).

Between 2012 and 2014 Dr Howlett was the co-ordinator of the British Inter-University China Centre (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded 'China in the Early 1950s' network. The network was established to facilitate scholarly exchanges on this subject with a view to an international conference in 2013-14.

In 2011 he was selected to attend the prestigious Sixth International Seminar on Decolonization in the Twentieth Century at the National History Centre in Washington, DC. In December 2013 he was a visiting scholar at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou and he was a visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai from September to December 2014.




Dr Howlett's book in preparation is titled New Shanghai: Revolution and Decolonisation in Communist China (1949-1966).  Dr Howlett draws on extensive archival research in Shanghai, Beijing, London and Washington DC to present for the first time an analysis of the ways in which the Chinese Communists attempted to purge Shanghai of Western influences and the problems they encountered along the way.  The book not only examines Communist policy and the responses of Western governments, but it also seeks to understand the manifold intended and unintended impacts of this process of decolonisation on the ordinary Chinese and foreign people who inhabited the city.

Dr Howlett welcomes applications from prospective postgraduate students on all matters related to China's modern history from the fall of the Qing Dynasty to the present day.  He especially welcomes proposals that relate to Sino-foreign relations, China in the 1950s and the history of Shanghai. His current PhD student Ding Yiyun is working on education and politics in the Republican era as examined through the case study of prominent female educator Yang Yinyu.





Contact details

Dr Jonathan Howlett
Vanbrugh College V/A/203A
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Student hours