SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H297 Mao's China, 1890s-1970s

Module Code:
This module is expected to run every other year
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

This module introduces students to China's turbulent twentieth-century history by following the life path of the person who arguably became the country's most infamous leader in the twentieth century. The journey will take us from the radical reformers and revolutionaries, male and female, of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. It will pass through the early decades of the Republic of China, war and civil war, and the agitated early decades of the People's Republic. Hope and despair filled this entire period, and the search for a 'Chinese' form of modernity characterised both the beginning and the end. Thematically, the module will focus on gender, state-society relations, forms of dissent and protest, and political utopianism. The aim of the module 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.


  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • demonstrate a solid knowledge and understanding of key issues, developments, and personalities in China's twentieth-century history;

  • show advanced skills in researching and solving historical problems, delivering seminar presentations and thinking critically about historical issues;

  • demonstrate an awareness of the historical antecedents of today's China their contemporary significance.


One hour lecture and tutorial for 10 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • One 2-hour exam 60% of overall module
  • Learning Journal 1 - 1,500 words, 20% of overall module
  • Learning Journal 2 - 1,500 workds 20% of overall module

Suggested reading

  • BROWN, Jeremy and Matthew D. JOHNSON, eds., Maoism at the Grassroots: Everyday Life in China's Era of High Socialism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2015)
  • CHEEK, Timothy, ed., A Critical Introduction to Mao (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • HERSHATTER, Gail, The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011)
  • MEISNER, Maurice, Mao Zedong: a Political and Intellectual Portrait (Malden, MA: Polity, 2007)
  • SNOW, Edgar, Red Star Over China (rev. and enl. ed., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, org. publ. London: Gollancz, 1937)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules