Chinese History II: From the Ming Dynasty to Yesterday

Lecture, Open—Spring

This course provides a solid grounding in the important political events and sociocultural changes of the densely-packed centuries from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the post-Mao reform era (1976-present). The course challenges many conventional views on modern China; for example, rather than seeing Chinese “modernity” as a reaction to defeat by Britain in the Opium War (1842), we will explore the modern features of the last two dynasties, such as late Ming consumer culture and the multi-ethnic Manchu imperium with its colonial expansion in the northwest and southwest. Other topics covered include the domestic crises facing China in the 19th century, the impact of Western imperialism, the collapse of the dynastic system in 1911, the desperate attempt to remake Chinese culture in the New Culture Movement (1915-1923), the rise of revolutionary parties, the flowering of urban culture of the 1920s-1930s, the extended trauma of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), the roots of the Communist revolution and its painful denouement in two decades of spasmodic Maoist radicalism (1957-1976), and finally the reforms that underpin China’s recent economic success and resurgent nationalism. Group conferences will read historical scholarship and engaging primary documents (in translation). This class is a natural continuation of Mr. Neskar’s fall class, which is not required; there is no prerequisite.