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Message-Id: <199802170533.AAA128286@h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 21:32:14 +0000
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
From: Marilyn Levine, H-Asia <mlevine@lcsc.edu>
Subject: H-Asia: Need references on interpretation of Chinese history
To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

References on the interpretation of Chinese history

Dialog from the H-Asia list, February 1998

Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 21:32:14 +0000
From: YU LAN <o47xs@unb.ca>

I need some references regarding the interpretation of the development of Chinese history. I remember reading something like Impact theory, dynastic cycle, despotism and recent call for interpreting Chinese history from the Chinese point of view (as apposed to the Impact theory). Also any reference regarding the contribution of the methodology of Western historiography to the development of Chinese historiography. Thanks for providing references.

Yu Lan
o47xs@unb.ca

Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 13:48:33 +0000
From: Robert Entenmann <entenman@stolaf.edu>

There is an excellent study of American interpretations of modern Chinese history: Paul A. Cohen, _Rediscovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past_ (Columbia University Press, 1984). The problem with this book is that it's 15 years old. But there are some more recent discussions that complement Cohen (but don't supersede him).

Prasenjit Duara's _Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China_ (University of Chicago Press, 1995) is thoughtful and challenging. Over the years _Modern China_ has published several very good articles and symposia on historiographical questions:

Philip C. C. Huang, The paradigmatic Crisis in Chinese Studies: Paradoxes in Social and Economic History, MC 17,3 (July 1991);

Symposium on Public Sphere/Civil Society in China, MC 19,2 (April 1993);

Symposium on Rethinking the Chinese Revolution, MC 21,1 (July 1995)

Robert Entenmann
St. Olaf College
entenman@stolaf.edu

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 15:31:22 -0600
From: Mark Asselin <asselin@lclark.edu>

One article well worth consulting is Hans Bielenstein's Is There a Chinese Dynastic Cycle? BMFEA 50 (1978): 1-23. Bielenstein there makes reference to earlier studies on the topic.

Mark L. Asselin
Visiting Asst. Prof. of Chinese
Lewis & Clark College
Portland, Oregon

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 17:09:54 -0500
From: Richard S. Horowitz <rhorowit@fas.harvard.edu>

Yu Lan is apparently looking for Paul Cohen's book _Discovering History in China_, which is still essential reading. Another quite broad analysis of historiography of China is an essay by William Rowe, Approaches to Chinese Social History in Olivier Zunz, ed., _Reliving the Past_. A useful two volume set of historiographical essays (mostly in Chinese but one or two are in English) was published in the late 1980s by the Institute of Modern History of Academia Sinica under the title _Liushi nian lai de zhongguo jindai shi yanjiu_ (studies of Chinese history in the last sixty years).

Presumably because the field has expanded so much, more recent historiographical analyses have been on narrower topics. Ten or fifteen years on, it is hard to imagine that the field could be summed up as neatly as Cohen managed to do.

Richard S. Horowitz
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
Harvard University

Date: February 19, 1998
From: Paul R. Rivera <paulrrivera@email.msn.com>

See Paul A Cohen, Discovering History in China, Columbia Univ. Pr., 1984 for a penetrating and insightful analysis of different schools of American historical writing on recent Chinese history.

Paul Rivera
Florida Gulf Coast University

Date: February 19, 1998
From: Thomas C. Bartlett <bartlett@ibm.net>

In the early 1960s a thin volume on this subject came out, called The Pattern of the Chinese Past, produced at Columbia University, and edited by John Meskill. (My copy isn't at hand and can't be quickly retrieved, so I can't check the exact references.)

It was one in a series of topical volumes devoted to different subjects (another was concerned with the reforms of Wang Anshi in the Northern Sung), intended for beginning students in the field of Chinese history. The contents included short excerpts of representative writings which introduced various traditional, neo-traditional, and foreign (including Marxist) viewpoints on the subject. I remember it as a very useful introduction to the whole subject.

Thomas Bartlett
La Trobe University

Date: February 20, 1998
From: Margherita Zanasi <zanasi@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu>

I would like to add one title to the comprehensive list of historiographical works recently suggested by Richard Horowitz. Kenneth Lieberthal et al. editors, _Perspectives on modern China: four anniversaries_ contains a series of interesting essays including Madeleine Zelinís The structure of the Chinese economy during the Qing period : some thoughts on the 150th anniversary of the Opium War and Frederic Wakemanís Models of historical change: the Chinese state and society, 1839-1989 as well as other good articles by Evelyn Rawski, Leo Ou-fan, and Michael Hunt. The essays in the volume focus on more narrow historiographical issues than those suggested by Richard Horowitz, but the volume as a whole offers a wide perspective on major themes in modern China.

Margherita Zanasi
History Department
University of Texas at Austin
Garrison Hall 114
zanasi@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu

Date: February 20, 1998
From: Wing-kai To <wto@bridgew.edu>

Yu Lan's initial posting asked about interpretations of Chinese history and he mentioned dynastic cycle and China-centered history, etc. In addition to studies by Paul Cohen, William Rowe, and Philip Huang cited by earlier postings, you might be interested in two other approaches -- regional systems and global history. See G, William Skinner, Presidential Address: The Structure of Chinese History, _Journal of Asian Studies_ (February 1985): 271-292. I would also recommend articles on China (and others) in Ainslie T. Embree and Carol Gluck, _Asia in Western and World History: A Guide to Teaching_ (M. E. Sharpe, 1997). This book seems to support the idea of understanding China from the perspective of Asian studies and world history.

Wing-kai To
Bridgewater State College