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Professor Stephen Smith

BA (Hons), MSocSc, PhD, FBA, FRHistS
Emeritus Fellow since 2019
My research interests are in the histories of modern Russia and China and in comparative Communism. I am writing a book on the 'politics of the supernatural' which compares the efforts of Communist regimes in the Soviet Union (1917-41) and the People’s Republic of China (1949-76) to eliminate 'superstition' from daily life, in areas such as popular religion, calendrical and life-cycle rituals, agriculture and folk medicine. It compares the ways in which ordinary people deployed religious and magical beliefs and practices as a way of dealing with and putting meaning on the turbulent and often traumatic changes that overtook their lives.
Contact: stephen.smith2 at
Professor Stephen Smith
  • Background

    • Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College (from 2012 to 2019)
    • Professor of History, University of Oxford (from 2012)
    • Professor of Comparative History, European University Institute, Florence (from 2008 to 2012)
    • Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, and, finally, Professor, Department of History, University of Essex (from 1977 to 2008)
    • Postgraduate at University of Birmingham (from 1973-1977) and at University of Moscow (1976-7) (from 1973 to 1977)
    • Undergraduate, Oriel College, Oxford (from 1970 to 1973)
  • Research interests

    • History of modern Russia/Soviet Union
    • History of modern China
    • Comparative history
  • Selected publications

    • The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
    • Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
    • (with Alan Knight), The Religion of Fools? Superstition Past and Present, Past and Present Supplement 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
    • The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
    • Like Cattle and Horses: Nationalism and Labor in Shanghai, 1895-1927 (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2002).
    • A Road is Made: Communism in Shanghai, 1920–27 (Honolulu/Richmond, UK: Curzon Press/University of Hawaii Press, 2000).
    • Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
  • Other professional memberships and roles

    • Member of the Editorial Boards for: Revolutionary Russia (1989–); Past and Present (1995–, editor 2009-14); Cultural and Social History (2004–); Antropologicheskii Forum (2005–); Twentieth Century Communism (2008–); Eurasian Review (Kookmin University, South Korea) (2008–); Ricerche Storiche (2009–), Ethnography (2009–); and Journal of Social History (2011–)
    • Member of the Council of the Royal Historical Society (from 2006 to 2008)
  • Research awards and grants

    • British Academy Research Leave Fellowship (from 2006 to 2008).
    • Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Grant (from 2002 to 2007).