Context and Introduction
Being one of the oldest civilizations, China has a long, rich, and diverse history. In chronological frameworks, this module offers ten weeks of feasting on its most recent past: the history of modern China, which in actuality is still in the grip of its dynastic past, despite countless reforms, revolutions and modernization that started in mid-nineteenth century and were modelled on the West.
During the ten weeks we examine eight major historical events that build a chronological framework for understanding the history of modern China. Leaning history in this way allows us to connect dots into a comprehensible narrative and to conduct macro as well as micro analysis. The eight events chosen—for instance, the First Opium War (1839-1842) and the 1911 Revolution—are signposts that will help us navigate the historical landscape. The lectures and seminars pose questions through which we can explore modern Chinese history.
As a survey course, this module provides a foundational understanding of China that is a module on its own and can be a starting point for further studies on historical China or contemporary China. This course is open to all students without prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese language or Chinese history.
The eight events that we will examine in the Autumn Term, along with other major events, profoundly shaped modern Chinese history. Sometimes the event itself made a difference to people’s life, such as the establishment in 1644 of the Qing dynasty as a new regime that brought about transformation of the country’s socio-political structures. At other times, an event’s symbolic meaning is the main focus of the history. The First Opium War, for instance, is central to the Century of Humiliation narrative that galvanized generations of Chinese people. The eight events have been chosen to help you better grasp the outline of modern Chinese history, while other events that we do not focus on are as important in a different context.
- The Qing’s Conquering of the Ming, 1644
- The First Opium War, 1839
- The Taiping Rebellion, 1850
- Reform Movements, 1861
- The 1911 Revolution, 1911
- The Second Sino-Japanese War, 1937
- The Communist Revolution, 1949
- The Cultural Revolution, 1966
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of historical and theoretical interpretations of modern China.
- Communicate ideas and findings, adapting to a range of situations, audiences and degrees of complexity.
- Analyse and evaluate the contributions made by existing scholarship.
- Act with limited supervision and direction within defined guidelines, accepting responsibility for achieving deadlines.
- Generate ideas through the analysis of a broad range of primary source material for the study of modern China, including electronic resources.
- Contribution in learning activities 10%
- Midterm Essay, 1500 words, 40%
- Summative Essay, 3000 words, 50%
NB Each assessed element will be marked according to the standard assessment criteria. Students should ensure that they follow the MHRA style guide carefully, especially for the presentation of the footnotes and the bibliography.
For assessment deadlines, plagiarism, extensions, and penalties see the Undergraduate Handbook.