Dr Shirley Ye

Dr Shirley Ye

Department of History
Lecturer in Asian History

I am a global historian with research and teaching interests in modern China.


  • PhD, Harvard University
  • MA, New York University
  • BA, University of California, Berkeley


Born in Hong Kong to parents from Sichuan, China, and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, I joined the History faculty at the University of Birmingham in 2013 after my completing my PhD at Harvard University. My first book project Engineering the Environment examines the new institutionalization and knowledge production of water control during the late imperial and modern periods. 

In my spare time, I like reading novels and taking walks with my husband and little boy.


My teaching encompasses politics and protest, environment and economy, gender and women, history and historiography, and crime and punishment in China and global history. I am dedicated to fostering an environment in which students develop the confidence to express their views and question the historical past and approaches to its study. My activities encourage students to draw on their existing knowledge and develop skills to formulate complex arguments. 

My pedagogy draws on the social sciences as well as literary and cultural studies to show how different approaches can help us understand the past. In critically examining and synthesizing a wide range of historical texts, my students develop skills to evaluate the politics, society and culture of the world we live in. 

In 2016 I was nominated for the Outstanding Teaching Award by the Guild of Students.

Postgraduate supervision

Previous MA thesis topics that I have co-supervised include Sino-British economic relations and a comparative study of Roman imperial cults and Japanese overseas shrines.

I welcome inquiries from students on PhD supervision on China, East Asia, and the wider world in any time period. Current PhD topics I am co-supervising include postcolonial urban architecture and memory in Hong Kong (funded by AHRC Midlands 3 Cities Consortium), and the public history and memory of World War Two in China.

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research focuses on the global history of modern China, with an emphasis on business and the economy, infrastructure and environment, education, and history and historiography. My current research is about how insurance companies assess risk in China.

Committed to multi-lingual and multi-archival research, I have worked in archives and libraries in China, Taiwan, USA, Germany, Britain, and France.

My research has been supported by major national and international funding awards. In 2014, I was awarded the British Academy / Leverhulme Small Research Grant. My past awards include the Fulbright-IIE, DAAD, Fulbright-Hays DDRA, and the Taiwan Fellowship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

I have been invited to discuss my research with audiences in China, Taiwan, Germany, Norway, the United States, and Britain. I have been a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the Department of History at Peking University, and the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.

Other activities

I was the director of the Global China: New Approaches lecture series with Professor Hans van de Ven of Cambridge. Funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, the series consisted of six public lectures which took place 2014-15.


Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • ‘River Conservancy and State-Building in Treaty Port China’ in Robert Bickers and Isabella Jackson, eds, Treaty ports in Modern China: Law, Land and Power (London: Routledge, 2016), pp.121-138.

Book Reviews

  • Review of Sinologists as Translators in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Lawrence Wang-Chi Wang and Bernhard Fuerher, eds. (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2015), Global Intellectual History (2018). https://doi.org/10.1080/23801883.2018.1505321
  • Review of Elizabeth Sinn, Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013), in Journal of American-East Asian Relations, vol. 22, issue 2 (2015), pp. 169-170. https://doi.org/10.1163/18765610-02202006

Other Writings

  • ‘Conference report on Manufacturing the German Empire-State in Asia’ in Berliner-China Studien, 2010, pp. 137-139.

View all publications in research portal