A Short Biography of Anthony Barbieri


I was born in Santa Clara, California. My parents were both trained as scientists, so my first academic interests were naturally in that direction. I enrolled at San José State University in 1986, pursuing a degree in Math-Computer Science. After trying my hand at computer programming and computer network support, I decided to switch fields completely, seeking a more humanistic endeavor.



In 1992 I transferred to the University of California at Santa Cruz, to study Asian History and Anthropology (Archaeology). Under the influence of some great professors, I decided to focus on Ancient Chinese history and archaeology. Graduating with honors in 1994, my senior thesis was entitled, “The Origins and Evolution of Political Authority in Ancient China.” Though somewhat naïve and teleological, this study was an earnest attempt to synthesize the secondary and primary sources (in translation) for the evolution of political authority in China, from the first emergence of state-level society to the empire of the Qin.

tonyharvardIn 1995, I enrolled in a masters program in East Asian Regional Studies at HarvardUniversity. Harvard’s plentiful resources for Chinese studies and numerous China-related faculty, made this experience invaluable for my formal training as a Sinologist. In 1997, I completed my M.A. thesis, entitled “Wheeled Vehicles in the Chinese Bronze Age,” which was primarily a technical investigation of the Chinese chariot and its diffusion from Central Asian prototypes. This was published in an expanded form in 2000, in Sino-Platonic Papers 99.

In 1997, I transferred to Princeton University and enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Chinese Art and Archaeology, working under Professor Robert W. Bagley. At Princeton I was able to embark on rigorous formal training in art history, while continuing my studies of archaeology and ancient history. At the suggestion of my advisor, I focused my dissertation research of the organization of imperial workshops in Han China. Using object analysis, inscriptions, and received texts, I was able to reconstruct the labor and management organization at one imperial luxury-goods factory that operated in Chengdu city during the Qin and Han dynasties.

Professional Career

2006-08-08 11.39.25After graduating in 2001, I took up my first appointment in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh. During my very enjoyable years in Pittsburgh, I learned how to teach undergraduates, since I had no teaching experience from my time in Princeton.  Also, working with a department of labor historians, I began to refocus my work more toward labor history, leading to my book Artisans in Early Imperial China.

In 2007, I accepted a position in the Department of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The department in Santa Barbara is large and varied. I teach a variety of large and small classes, including World History. In 2015 I was promoted to full Professor.

My research interests continue to evolve. In the last seven years, I published a major translation of ancient Chinese legal texts, another book comparing Ancient Egypt and Early China, and a third focused on historical interpretations of the Qin Dynasty. My current projects include another major translation (Yantielun), a study of East-West cultural interchange, an anthology of East-West travel accounts, and a cultural history of tigers in China.