Dr Gordon Barrett

  • politics of science and medicine
  • science diplomacy
  • modern China
gordon barret research image

My research has explored the roles played by scientists and scientific organisations in the early foreign relations of the People’s Republic of China. Examining China’s engagement with international scientific organisations and scientific networks in the developing, socialist, and ‘Western’ worlds, this strand of my research provides new perspectives on the structures and significance of Cold War international science. It also considers the significance of these international activities for the China’s wider efforts at international outreach during the first three decades of CCP rule. Reflecting these research interests, I currently serve on the leadership committee for the IUHPST Division of History of Science and Technology’s Historical Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy.

My current primary project explores the disciplinary development of psychology and psychiatry in the early decades of the People’s Republic of China. It aims to chart the contrasting the trajectories of such professionals on either side of the science-medicine divide during the era of high socialism and to elucidate the party-state’s influence on research, practice, and discourses in these ‘psy professions’. The initial phase of scoping research for this project was supported by the John Fell Research Fund, which included fieldwork in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai.

In 2015, I was a British Inter-University China Centre Early Career Researcher at the University of Bristol, collaborating with the Needham Research Institute and the Cambridge University Library’s digitisation team on a project to digitise and run public engagement activities based on a unique collection of photographs and documents relating to Sino-British scientific cooperation during the Second World War. Starting in October 2019, I have been a member of the advisory board and acting as an affiliated researcher for the Needham Research Institute’s 3-year Wellcome Trust-funded preservation and engagement project, ‘Science and Medicine in China from World War II to the Cultural Revolution: Sources from the Archives of Joseph and Dorothy Needham’.



  • Minding the Gap: Zhou Peiyuan, Dorothy Hodgkin, and the Durability of Sino-Pugwash Networks

  • Between Sovereignty and Legitimacy: China and UNESCO, 1946-1953

  • China's “People's Diplomacy” and the Pugwash Conferences, 1957–1964

  • More

I currently teach:

Undergraduate: FHS
For History, I have taught on:

Further Subject: China since 1900

Theme Paper B: Global Networks of Innovation, 1000-1700: China, Islam and the Rise of the West

EWF 11: Imperial and Global History, 1750-1914

EWF 14: The Global Twentieth Century, 1930-2003

For DPIR I have taught on:

PPE 227: Politics in China

PPE 212: International Relations in the Era of Two World Wars

PPE 213: International Relations in the Era of the Cold War


For History, I have taught on:

History and Historiography of Modern China

Concepts and Themes in Global and Imperial History

For DPIR I have taught on:

International Relations of East Asia

Politics and Government of China

Development of the International System

Debates in International Relations Theory