Institution(s): HK Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, HK Institute of Economics and Business Strategy

Date: Oct 29, 2010 (Friday)

Time: 04:30 pm -

Venue: Room 617, 6/F., Meng Wah Complex, The University of Hong Kong


This talk explores the emergence of civil engineering as a profession in the context of the business and institutional development of China's first railroad companies. Based on archival company records combined with a large variety of primary sources from professional journals to newspaper and biographical accounts, she will discuss the challenges that came with transnational knowledge transfer as well as with diverging interests in creating the educational infrastructure for training future Chinese engineers. Issues addressed in this presentation include local knowledge production and cross-cultural technology transfer, the establishment of engineering as a discipline in higher education, and the engineers' changing social status and professional identity. From a broader perspective, her analysis will allow us to reevaluate the economic and social modernization agenda evolving throughout the Republican period and the enormous institutional, economic, and political legacy of the engineering discipline in contemporary China.


Elisabeth Koll is an Associate Professor in the Entrepreneurial Management unit at the Harvard Business School. After pursuing her undergraduate education at the University of Bonn in Germany, and at Fudan University, Shanghai, she received her PhD in Chinese Business History from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Her research focuses on the managerial, legal, and financial evolution of business institutions in China from the late Imperial period to the present (see for example, From Cotton Mill to Business Enterprises: The Emergence of Regional Enterprises in Modern China, 2003). Prof. Koll's current research addresses the emergence of railroad infrastructure in China and how technology transfer and railroad companies have contributed to China's economic and political development as a modern nation-state.