This book to some extent grew out of a general interest I developed during the anti-war movement of the early 1970s in the relationship between military force and society. At the time, I certainly had no indication that this interest would lead me to a study of Chinese warlordism. The more immediate genesis of this particular project was a graduate paper at the University of Michigan that focused not on the emergence of warlordism but on its demise. As is often the case in historical research, though, my work on this paper, which was in itself hardly memorable, drew me backwards in time to consider why warlordism appeared in China in the first place. A feeling that this topic had not been adequately treated in the existing literature was one factor in my decision to make warlordism the subject of my doctoral dissertation. Originally, I envisioned my dissertation as a more general study of warlordism that might perhaps take one chapter to deal with the question of warlord origins. As my research progressed, I began to see that the emergence of warlordism was a complicated process that could not be addressed in so brief a manner. My desire to outline this process with greater precision increasingly framed and dominated my research. As I began to write the dissertation, what had begun as a preliminary question for my research turned into its central focus.
I am very grateful to the numerous teachers, colleagues, and friends whose guidance, advice, and support were instrumental in the making of this book. First, I would like to thank the co-chairs of my dissertation committee, who saw me through the development and completion of my first manuscript. Albert Feuerwerker provided thoughtful criticism and constant encouragement. Ernest P. Young's insights and questions helped me to strengthen the focus of the original dissertation
and suggested improvements for subsequent revisions. Second, I would particularly like to thank two reviewers, Joseph Esherick and Donald Sutton, for their meticulous reading of my revised manuscript and many invaluable suggestions. Next, I would like to express my gratitude to a number of other people who took the time to read all or part of my manuscript in its various stages and to offer helpful comments on it, including Chun-shu Chang, Martin K. Whyte, Stephen MacKinnon, Joyce Kallgren, Donald Price, and Christopher Alhambra. Finally, I would like to thank all the other people who over the years provided me with advice and assistance in pursuing my research or, in allowing me to talk to them about my work, inspired me with their insights and suggestions. Although these benefactors are too numerous to list, I would be remiss if I did not offer special thanks to Jerome Ch'en, Diana Lary, Lin Zengping, Mao Jiaqi, Tao Hongkai, Arthur Waldron, Odoric Wou, and Zhang Kaiyuan. While I owe much to these people for any of the merits of this book, I, of course, must take responsibility for its shortcomings.
I am also grateful for the financial support I received over the years to support the research and writing of this book. I am particularly thankful for fellowships from the Committee for Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fulbright-Hays program, which supported nearly two years of research in the People's Republic of China. In this regard, I also need to thank the institutions that hosted me during my research in China: Huazhong Normal University, Hunan Normal University, Nanjing University, and Peking University. Fellowships and grants from the Center for Chinese Studies and the Graduate School of the University of Michigan provided support during the writing of my dissertation. I am grateful too for a postdoctoral fellowship from the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, which gave me an opportunity to carry out additional research and to begin revising my manuscript for publication.
Finally, I need to thank the various libraries in China and the United States that opened their stacks to me over the course of my research. One of the greatest difficulties I faced in pursuing this study was the problem of sources. Warlordism arose in a time of great disorder and frequent civil war, conditions hardly conducive to the preservation of historical materials. Busy with their wars, the warlords themselves took little care to preserve documentation of their rule. The War of Resistance against Japan (1937–45) also had a devastating impact on library and archival holdings in central China, the main area
of my research. One result of this situation was that I had to be very eclectic in the use of different types of materials for my research, including document collections, memoirs, oral history records, local histories, and contemporary newspapers and periodicals. In order to track down various scattered sources potentially useful for my research in China, I visited a number of different university, city, provincial, and institutional libraries in Wuhan, Changsha, Nanjing, and Beijing. Although nearly all of these libraries were gracious in their assistance, my special thanks must go to the Hubei Provincial Library, the Hunan Provincial Library, the Wuhan City Library, and the Beijing University Library for the extraordinary efforts they made to meet my research needs. In the United States, I would like to thank the staffs of the Asia libraries at the University of Michigan, the University of California, and Columbia University; the Hoover Institution Library at Stanford University; and the Library of Congress for their assistance. The detail I sought in tracing the emergence of warlordism on a regional level would not have been possible without the aid I received from all these libraries in both China and the United States.