New paper recapping 40 years of ‘big data’ research on population, family and social history by James Lee, Cameron Campbell and collaborators

James Lee and Cameron Campbell in Daoyi in 1987

Cameron Campbell and James Lee just published an article on the contributions of the Lee-Campbell Research Group to a new scholarship of discovery in Chinese population history, family history, and socio-economic history based on our construction and analysis from 1979 to 2020 of large historical datasets from largely archival records.  Our paper first introduces these datasets, then describes our joint research, and concludes with a summary of our major analytic results. This publication is an invited contribution to a special issue of Historical Life Course Studies which introduces the major historical population databases. Papers on the Quebec BALSAC project and the Historical Sample of the Netherlands are already posted.

Here is the PDF:

Here is the web page at the journal site, with abstract and links to the PDF (in case the link above stops working):

This article differs from our normal research publications because it is both a career retrospective and a comprehensive summary of everything that James, Cameron and the Lee-Campbell Group have done together over more than four decades that ties everything together and shows how each project led to the next. It starts from our early efforts in population history using household registers, and proceeds sequentially up to the present day, including our new projects on university students, civil officials, and educated professionals.

In front of the No. 1 Historical Archives in Beijing in 1987

The section on the history of our collaboration will hopefully be the most readable: it starts with James Lee’s visit to China in 1979 to look for records in historical archives that could be turned into databases, then Cameron  shows up in 1987 at the end his sophomore year at Caltech. Later others joined to form what is now the Lee-Campbell Group. We also talk about our involvement in the Eurasia Project in Population and Family History including what we hope will be interesting anecdotes, reminisces, and reflections.

The introduction to our databases and summary of results, meanwhile, is the first time we have put almost everything we have done together in one place. We hope that it will be useful for those who may be familiar with specific pieces of our work to gain a better sense of the larger research agenda In into which these pieces fit.

This was a fun paper to write, especially the history section which includes some discussion of our faculty years at Caltech 1982-2002, UCLA 1996-2015, Michigan 1980-1982, 1995-1996, 2002-2009 and most recently HKUST 2009/2013-onwards and the contributions of these institutions and our colleagues to advancing our research projects.