Dr Xun Zhou

Department of History
Dr Xun Zhou
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872232

  • Location

    5NW.8.6, Colchester Campus



I was born in Sichuan province, China, and gained my BA from Sichuan University. I then came to the UK for my postgraduate work, receiving my PhD from the University of London in 1998. In the past 20 years, I have lived in London, Jerusalem, Beijing and Hong Kong. Between January 2001 and December 2007, I was a Research Fellow in the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and from December 2007 to December 2012 I was Research Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong. My research is concerned with modern China. I am among a growing number of historians who are pioneering the history of the People's Republic of China through the use of new oral and archival evidence. Based on thousands of archival documents and hundreds of interviews I have collected, my recent works The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: A Documentary History (2012) and Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1961: An Oral History (2014) are powerful accounts which have helped to reshape our understanding of modern Chinese history. I have recently completed a major study on Health Intervention and Delivery in the PRC. This is part of the European Commission Research Executive Agency funded project. Capitalising on previously unseen archival sources from across China AND extensive oral interviews with the participants at the expert and grassroots level, my new book 'The People's Health', will be published by McGill-Queen University University Press in Spring 2020, sets out to develop a nuanced understanding of the Chinese approach to health. It explores the processes through which the PRC's health system was conceived and the political context in which they were, and could be evaluated. This book contributes to global health policy debates concerning the importance of political commitment to health, sustained investment, access to health, the pursuit of community engagement, and action on the wider determinants of health. I have also a long track record in media activities. Some of my interviews with famine survivors have appeared in the award winning French Documentary film Mao's Great Famine (2012).


  • BA Sichuan

  • MA London

  • PhD London

  • FHEA


University of Essex

  • History Department Lead for International Partnerships, History Department, University of Essex (1/7/2018 - present)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

History of Jewish People in Asia

Open to supervise

Social History of Drugs

Open to supervise

Material Culture. Visual Culture, and Everyday life in Modern China (1870-1950)

Open to supervise

Social History of Modern China

Open to supervise

History of Public Health and Medicine in 20th century China

Open to supervise

Food and Foodways

Open to supervise

History of Diseases, Environmental History

Open to supervise

Medicine and Religion in East Asia, 20th Century

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • The Making of the Modern World since 1750 (HR100)

  • Resisting Empire (HR104)

  • The Social and Cultural History of the First World War (HR214)

  • China: The Long Twentieth Century (HR226)

  • Choosing Your Past: How to Design and Manage a Research Project (HR231)

  • Research Project (HR831)

  • Approaches to Cultural and Social History (HR924)

  • War and Medicine (HR965)

Previous supervision

Jiarong Lu
Jiarong Lu
Thesis title: Leisure and Modernity in Late 19th Century Shanghai
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Philosophy
Awarded date: 15/2/2019


Journal articles (10)

Zhou, X., (2016). Reconsidering the Barefoot Doctor Programme. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 9 (1), 41-63

Zhou, X., (2016). Introduction to Re-thinking Health and Health Care Delivery: Historical Perspectives and Global Challenges. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 9 (1), 1-3

Zhou, X., (2016). ‘Cosmopolitan from above’: a Jewish experience in Hong Kong. European Review of Economic History. 23 (5-6), 897-911

Zhou, X., (2016). Re-examining the History of the Great Famine in China through Documentary Evidence. East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies. 3 (2), 133-151

Zhou, X., (2014). Peter Zarrow: After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885–1924. xiv, 395 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012. ISBN 978 0 8047 7868 8.. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 77 (1), 256-257

Zhou, X., (2012). 'Kitchen Knowledge', Desperate Foods, and Ritual Healing in Everyday Survival Strategies during the Great Famine in China, 1958-62. Asian Medicine. 7 (2), 384-404

Xun, Z., (2011). Mikvahin Beijing. European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire. 18 (1), 123-130

Xun, Z., (2002). The discourse of disability in modern China. Patterns of Prejudice. 36 (1), 104-112

Xun, Z., (2002). A History of Narcotic Consumption in Modern China. Twentieth-Century China. 28 (1), 21-36

Dikotter, F., (2002). Narcotic Culture. A Social History of Drug Consumption in China. British Journal of Criminology. 42 (2), 317-336

Books (9)

Zhou, X., (2020). The People's Health: Health Intervention and Delivery in Mao's China, 1949-1983. McGill-Queen's University Press. 9780228001942

Dikötter, F., Laamann, LP. and Zhou, X., (2016). Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China. C. HURST & CO. PUBLISHERS. 1850657254. 9781849044721

Vargas-O'Bryan, IM. and Zhou, X., (2014). Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions. Routledge. 131768995X. 9781317689959

Zhou, X. and Tarocco, F., (2013). Karaoke The Global Phenomenon. Reaktion Books. 1780232403. 9781780232409

Zhou, X. and Xun, Z., (2013). Chinese Perceptions of the Jews' and Judaism: A History of the Youtai. Routledge. 1136835091. 9781136835094

Zhou, X., (2013). Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962 An Oral History. Yale University Press. 0300199244. 9780300184044

Zhou, X., (2012). The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962 A Documentary History. Yale University Press. 9780300175189

Gilman, SL. and Zhou, X., (2004). Smoke A Global History of Smoking. Reaktion Books and University of Chicago Press. 1861892004. 9781861892003

(2001). The Wisdom of the Confucians. Oneworld Publications Limited. 1851682597. 9781851682591

Book chapters (8)

Zhou, X., (2020). Violence in Revolutionary China: 1949-1963. In: The Cambridge World History of Violence Volume 4 AD 1800-AD 2000. Editors: Edwards, L., Penn, N. and Winter, J., . Cambridge University Press. 408- 426. 9781316606148

Zhou, X., (2018). Beauty and Health: Images of Health and Illness from 20th-Century China. In: Imagining Chinese Medicine. Editors: Lo, V. and Barrett, P., . Brill. 487- 496. 978-90-04-36618-3

Zhou, X., (2017). From China's "Barefoot Doctor" to Alma Ata: The Primary Health Care Movement in the Long 1970s. In: China, Hong Kong, and the Long 1970s: Global Perspectives. Editors: Roberts, P. and Westad, OA., . Palgrave Macmillan. 135- 157. 978-3-319-51249-5

Zhou, X., (2016). Perceiving Jews in Modern China. In: The Image of Jews in Contemporary China. Editors: Ross, J. and Song, L., . Academic Studies Press. 5- 23. 9781618114204

Zhou, X., (2014). Mikevah in Beijing. In: Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalisation. Editors: Gelbin, C. and Gilman, S., . Routledge. 9781138801646

Zhou, X., (2014). Collaborating and Conflicted: Being Jewish in Secular and Multicultural Hong Kong. In: Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Collaboration and Conflict in the Age of Diaspora. Editors: Gilman, SL., . Hong Kong University Press. 99- 114. 978-9888208272

Zhou, X., (2012). Fitness and Modernity in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China. In: Perfect Bodies: Sports, Medicine and Immortality Ancient and Modern. Editors: Lo, V., . British Museum Research Publications. 143- 156. 9780861591886

Zhou, X., (2008). The 'Jews' in the May Fourth Period. In: Youtai - Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China. Editors: Kupfer, P., . Peter Lang. 201- 216. 9783631575338

Other (1)

Gilman, S. and Zhou, X., (2014).But We Never Talked about it,History Workshop Online, Special Feature: Timeliness and (Holocaust) Memory

Grants and funding


Between State and Community - Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practice in socialist Asia

European Commission (FP7)

+44 (0) 1206 872232


5NW.8.6, Colchester Campus