Dr Toby Lincoln

Associate Professor in Chinese Urban History


Dr Lincoln researches modern Chinese urban history and governance. Concentrating on the twentieth century, he is particularly concerned with urban morphology, the changing rural-urban relationship and daily life in different environments.

Dr Lincoln is using funding awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to research the urban governance response to the coronavirus in East Asia.

The project explores how municipal governments manage the impact of the pandemic on their populations and how the public respond to these policies. With a focus on the cities of Wuhan and Taipei, the research will track policies to help communities deal with the impact of the pandemic, including help for the vulnerable during quarantine, and aid to those who have lost their jobs. He will also explore how transport systems have adapted to continue to meet the needs of large urban populations, and look at how cities are managing public spaces and institutions such as universities.



I study modern Chinese urban history. Concentrating on the twentieth century, I am particularly concerned with urban morphology, the changing rural-urban relationship and daily life in different environments. Additionally, I work on the relationship between war and the city, the importance of social networks in Chinese history and how ideas about cities have and are being disseminated across East Asia.

Current projects

I am currently working on two research projects. The first is an AHRC early career research fellowship. The title is Postwar Urban Reconstruction in China 1938-1958. This research explains how urban reconstruction in China during and after World War II (WWII) laid the foundation for the country to become the world's largest urban society. In focusing on the war as a transformative period in the development of China's cities, instead of the Communist Revolution, it writes the country into the global history of urban change throughout the 20th century. This research begins with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, which is when widespread urban destruction commenced. It ends with the start of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, which marked the intensification of policies to create industrial socialist cities. The second is a summary of Chinese urbanization from its origins to the present, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press as part of its New Approaches to Asian History series. It explores how China's imperial urban civilization has been transformed into the world's largest urban society, focusing on the development of the urban system, changes to urban morphology, and daily life in cities.



An Urban History of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Urbanizing China in War and Peace: The Case of Wuxi County Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, June 2015


  1. Toby Lincoln and Rebecca Madgin, “The Inherent Malleability of Heritage: Creating China’s Beautiful Villages,” International Journal of Heritage Studies. Published online 25 January 2018.
  2. Toby Lincoln and Xu Tao eds., The Habitable City in China: Urban History in the Twentieth Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. My own chapter is entitled: “Urbanization and Nature in Twentieth Century China."
  3. From Riots to Relief: Rice, Local Government and Charities in Occupied Central China.” in Food and War in Mid-Twentieth-Century East Asia, edited by Katarzyna J. Cwiertka, Ashgate, 2013, 11-28.
  4. China: Revolution in the Streets,” History Today 62: 8 (Aug. 2012)
  5. The Rural and Urban at War: Invasion and Reconstruction in China during the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance,” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 1 (January 2012): 114-132.
  6. Fleeing from Firestorms: Government, Cities, Native Place Associations and Refugees in the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance” Urban History 38:3 (Dec 2011) 437-456.
  7. (published in Chinese as: 林涛著,喻满意、许哲娜译:远离烽火:抗日战争期间的政府、城市、同乡会和难民,《城市史研究》,2012年9月,第143-163页)

Book reviews

  1. Wang Jun, “Beijing Record: A Physical History of Planning Modern Beijing” (New Jersey: World Scientific, 2011) in China Review International 19: 1 (2012): 136-139.
  2. Wang Di, “The Teahouse: Small Business, Everyday Culture, and Public Politics in Chengdu, 1900-1950” (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008) in China Review International 18: 3 (Oct. 2011): 409-413.
  3. Marie-Claire Bergère (trans. Janet Lloyd) “Shanghai: China’s Gateway to Modernity” (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009) in East Asia: an International Quarterly, 28: 1 (Mar. 2011): 74-7.
  4. Yue Zhang, “The Fragmented Politics of Urban Preservation: Beijing, Chicago and Paris,” in Urban History 42: 2 (May 2015): 358-360


Economic, political and social history of modern China; Chinese urban history and industrialisation.


Examples of the modules I teach:

  • Enter the Dragon: Modern Chinese History, 1839-1989
  • When Two Dragons Fight: China and Japan at War in the Twentieth Century

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