[skip to content]

Department of History

H297 Modern China

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course covers China’s history roughly from the 1700s to 2000. It proceeds chronologically within a thematic framework highlighting the different cultural, historical, political and social dimensions surrounding our understanding of modern China, such as imperialism and state-building, reforms and revolts, labour and migration, and the rise of the CCP. The aim of the course is to provide a solid foundation for further understanding China’s recent historical developments and its place in the modern world.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • an understanding of the internal and external forces that shaped China’s modern history,
  •  familiarity with the key concepts and approaches scholars use to understand and analyze Chinese history and the ability to evaluate these critically in their respective contexts,
  • research skills that enable them to identify and explore a historical question and to find and evaluate relevant evidence, skills in sharing and presenting the results of their research in a coherent and convincing way that invites discussion and cooperation.


One hour lecture and tutorial for 22 weeks.

Scope and syllabus

1. Introduction: Understanding modern China
2. Ming-Qing Transition
3. Intellectuals and the development of the public sphere
4. Qing expansion and Empire-building
5. Threats within and without
6. Rebels and revolts
7. Foreigners and treaty ports
8. Labour and migration
9. Women in Qing society
10. Reform and self-strengthening
11. Nationhood
12. The Xinhai Revolution
13. Warlordism
14. The Sino-Japanese War
15. The “making” and rise of Mao
16. Cold War
17. Great Leap Forward
18. The Cultural Revolution
19. Post-Mao
20. The rise of a new economy

Method of assessment

  • one 3 hour exam worth 40%
  • 3, 2000 word essay worth 20% each

Suggested reading

  • Antony, Robert J., ed. Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers: Violence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010.
  • Cheek, Timothy, ed. A Critical Introduction to Mao. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Crossley, Pamela K. The Wobbling Pivot: China since 1800. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • Gray, Jack. Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to 2000, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Harrison, Henrietta. The Making of the Republican Citizen: Political Ceremonies and Symbols in China, 1911-1929. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Kuo, Huei-Ying, Networks beyond Empires: Chinese Business and Nationalism in the Hong Kong-Singapore Corridor, 1914. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
  • Rowe, William. China’s Last Empire: the Great Qing. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009
  • Spence, Jonathan. The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and their Revolution, 1895-1980. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.