Elizabeth Reynolds

Elizabeth Reynolds

Lecturer in Global Studies
PhD, Columbia University
research interests:
  • Economic and social history of Tibet

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    MSC 1217-137-255
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Elizabeth Reynolds studies Tibetan and Chinese History.

Elizabeth received her PhD from Columbia University in 2020. Her manuscript, "Tibet Incorporated: Institutional Power and Economic Practice on the Sino-Tibetan Borderland, 1930-1950", delves into the world of Kham, a Tibetan region at the epicenter of Chinese and Tibetan political struggles of the 20th century.

Her research interests include: economic and social history of Tibet from the 19th to 20th centuries with a particular focus on monastic economies, currency, taxation, labor systems, and trade networks in Tibet and East Asia.

Recent Courses

Global Tibet: Culture and Society on the Roof of the World

Far from the imagined "land of snows" closed off to the rest of the world, Tibet always had dynamic interactions with Inner Asia, South Asia, and China. With an expansive view on Tibetan history, this course traces these interactions from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century through a variety of topics, ranging from the power of the Dalai Lamas to the spread of Tibetan Buddhism across the world, to the effects of global warming on the "third pole." Students will be exposed to religious texts, memoirs, and novels to trace the lives of women saints and Tibetan communists as well as exiled nationalists, and watch documentaries and films to interrogate Tibet's place in China and the Tibetan diaspora's experience in India and the United States. Using Tibet as a lens, students will learn to question larger problems of religion versus secularism, cultural preservation versus globalization, and national identity versus colonization, subjects that continue to matter to Tibet and the world today.

Ampersand: Legacies of the Silk Road

Stretching from China to Europe, the Silk Road looms large in contemporary imagination, as visions of caravans, monks, and scholars still animate the deeper reaches of our minds. But what was the Silk Road, and how did it turn from a "road" that connected diverse cultures and civilizations to one that is dominated by geopolitical and national interests? This course investigates the foundations of political and religious identities across Central Eurasia from the Taliban's rise in Afghanistan to the internment camps in Xinjiang, to self-immolation protests in Tibet. Through a diverse array of religious texts, literary works, museum pieces, and state documents, this course invites students to examine the historical roots of present-day conflicts by rethinking the Silk Road. Throughout the course, we will explore how environmental conditions have shaped the rise and fall of civilizations, how technologies, people, and diseases have traveled across Eurasia, and how imperialism, capitalism, and globalization fundamentally transformed the historical landscape of the region. Ultimately, we will discuss whether the "Silk Road" may still offer us a critical framework to understand global connectivity in our current day when borders are becoming more rigid than ever. This course is restricted to first-year students in the Global Citizenship Program.

    History of Global Capitalism: From Slavery to Neoliberalism

    This course introduces the methods, issues, and debates that shape our understanding of economic change and development from the Industrial Revolution to the post-industrial age. Engaging economic theorists from Marx to Smith to Weber and Wallerstein, this course problematizes the notion of rational economic actors and interrogates notions of free trade in an attempt to understand the impact of capitalism on the world. We start the course with a discussion of the "exceptionalism" of Great Britain as the first industrial nation and reconsider the impact of new trade, production, property and monetary/financial regimes that resulted in the so-called "Great Divergence" between China and the West. We then turn to the "late industrializers" of China, Japan, and Mexico in order to investigate the varieties of development, specifically focusing on monetary integration, legal integration and the global impact of the great depression. Continuing into the Bretton Woods Conference and the post-war international monetary systems, we bring the course to a close with the advent of the "post-industrial age." This course is designed both for students specializing in economic history and students in all disciplines interested in historical approaches to political/economic development.

      Economic History of China: From the Silver Age to Reform and Opening, 1600 to Today

      This seminar explores the economic history of China from the 16th to the 20th century; this time period is the half a millennium during which China became part of the world economy and defined its development in major ways. Over the course of the semester, students will be exposed to the main debates in the field of Chinese economic history while acquiring a strong grasp of the nuts and bolts of how economy functioned and changed from the imperial to the modern times. Situating China within a comparative perspective, we will examine a multitude of debates ranging from the global silver age of the 16th century to the birth of capitalism, the socialist economy, and the PRC's recent involvement in Africa. We will in particular discuss the contradictions that arose out of China's integration into the world economy and the different kinds of economic regimes that existed and continue to exist within China. While this course assumes a basic familiarity with Asian history, students with backgrounds in other world histories and/or social science disciplines should feel comfortable with the course material.