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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 from around 1600 to 1989. It proceeds chronologically, focusing on themes that are of importance for our understanding of what happens in China today, such as state-society relations, forms of dissent and protest, imperial expansion and the formation of a nation state, imperialism and nationalism, reform and revolution, internationalism and war, environment and gender, and Maoism and its end.  The aim of the course is to provide a sound basis, both in terms of factual knowledge and methodological approaches, for further in-depth study of the history of China and its place in the 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.

Method of assessment

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

Suggested reading

  • CHEEK, Timothy, ed., A Critical Introduction to Mao (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • CROSSLEY, Pamela, The Wobbling Pivot: China Since 1800 – an Interpretive History (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
  • GERNET, Jacques, A History of Chinese Civilization (2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1996).
  • HARRISON, Henrietta, A Man Awakened from Dreams: one Man’s Life in a North China Village, 1857-1942 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004)
  • HERSHATTER, Gail, The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011)
  • MEISNER, Maurice, Mao's China and After: a History of the People’s Republic (New York: Free Press, 1999)
  • ROWE, William, China's Last Empire: the Great Qing (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009)
  • SCHOPPA, Keith, Revolution and its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006)
  • SNOW, Edgar, Red Star Over China (rev. and enl. ed., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, org. publ. London: Gollancz, 1937)
  • SPENCE, Jonathan, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: the Chinese and their Revolution, 1895-1980 (London: Faber, 1982)
  • SPENCE, Jonathan, The Search for Modern China (New York: Norton, 1999)
  • WANG, Zheng, Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999)
  • ZHAO, Ziyang, Prisoner of the State: the Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang (London: Simon & Schuster, 2009)