“Wars made Shanghai” gets an official head start

The coordinators (Prof. Ma Jun 馬 軍 and Chr. Henriot 安克強) and the members of the SASS team (Prof, Jiang Wenjun 江文君, Li Zhiming 李志茗, and Mou Zhenyu 牟振宇; Ph.D graduates Lu Ye 陆烨 and Yue Qintao岳钦韬) of the “Wars made Shanghai” project have held three work sessions in the course of April 2013 to get the joint research project started. Moreover, one of the members of the IAO team, Prof. Christine Cornet,  will soon be in Shanghai for research in the archives and will team up with the SASS scholars.

The first session held on 10 April was devoted to an overview of the project, the presentation of each participant’s  past and current research, the set of tools to be used in the implementation of the project, as well as the modes of collaborative work. All the participants contributed to a lively discussion of the challenges ahead.

During the second session on 17 April, Christian Henriot made a presentation of the French institutional setup, especially the system of joint research units (UMR) and the unusual mix of institutions that characterizes French research units. Henriot took the opportunity of this presentation to introduce a mind-mapping application (X-mind) to demonstrate the flexibility of this application for “brain-storming”. This was followed by Feng Yi’s (馮藝) presentation of the digital resources for research at the Institut d’Asie Orientale, especially BN-IAO (IAO’s digital library), which the participants will use in the course of the project.

Finally, Henriot introduced the participants to one of the major digital applications to be used, Actoz, designed and developed by Prof. Jean-Pierre Dedieu in France. Actoz is a Filemaker-powered application. It is based on a thorough analysis of what constitutes historical data and how such data can to be broken down into significant units. Actoz  is a most powerful tool not just to store historical data, but to establish multiple links, many unforeseen or invisible to the human mind, through the data, to keep track of all the original sources and documents, to establish elaborate genealogies, to handle all kinds of cultural objects in relation with their contributors, and to integrate spatial data. This short description does not make justice to the many features to be found in Actoz, but it seemed important to highlight what amounts to a serious attempt at historical modelling. Training sessions on Actoz are to take place in Lyon in the spring and the fall, with follow up sessions in Shanghai.


In the last session held on 25 April, the participants turned to a presentation of their proposed main lines of inquiry in the joint project. They formulated research directions based on their previous scholarly achievements that can match the objectives of the project. While each will pursue one’s own line of work, each will contribute to the collaborative platform based on Virtual Shanghai. Since collaborative work also requires both discussion and coordination, participants will avail themselves of a closed-circuit Wiki for internal discussions and well a regular meetings, real or online, every two months. One of the major features of the “Wars made Shanghai”  project, aside from substantive research, will definitely be the use of a large array of dedicated digital instruments to promote a new approach to history in both China and France.