SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

The Problem of Discipline: ‘Shanghai’s Child Labor Problem,’ 1922-1925

Shanghai’s Child Labor Problem
Margaret Tillman (Purdue University)

Date: 3 December 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 3 December 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration


How and why did children become important for government officials and social elites? Hugh Cunningham has noted that child labor and poverty became social problems along with urbanization because their visible plight drew the attention of elites. In Shanghai’s transnational International Settlement, Chinese and Western elites saw the effects of the city’s rapid industrialization on the urban working class, especially children. This seminar will examine efforts to abolish child labor, not only to benefit the working class, but also to modernize the Chinese economy by enforcing industrial discipline. While scholars have noted some of the political reasons for the failures of child labor legislation, this seminar will attempt to conclude by placing these efforts in a longer-term historical perspective regarding social welfare movements.


Margaret Mih Tillman graduated with a PhD in history from UC Berkeley and is currently an assistant professor at Purdue University. Her first book, Raising China's Revolutionaries was published by Columbia University Press in 2018. 

Image credit: Image taken for the child labor campaign, just as the child came out from a cotton mill in Shanghai. Courtesy of Mitchell Library, Sydney.

Organiser: Co-organised by SOAS Dept of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies and SCI

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