Department of History HIST 366 – Early Modern China
Giulio Aleni’s “Complete Map of all the Countries” 萬國全圖, 1620’s
Meeting Times: Tuesday and Thursday 2:45-4:00
Instructor: Dr. Tim Sedo
Office: LB 1001-16
Phone: 514.848.4538 ext. 5369
Office Hours: Wednesday 12:00 – 3:00 or by appointment
Course Outline and Objectives: Welcome to the wonderful world of Early Modern Chinese history. By the end of the course I will hopefully have you questioning the significance of every word in that first sentence: “early” “modern” and “China” included. This course is designed to offer an introduction to the political, social, economic and cultural history of the period from roughly the thirteenth century until China’s Republican Revolution of 1911. Our goal for this term is not complete knowledge of China, but rather a deeper appreciation of some of the important internal and global dynamics that helped to shape Early Modern Chinese history. As we move through the term we will explore the status of China in the Early Modern world community, the allure and power of “the West” and the role of reform and revolution in China. We will also ask questions like: How did the Late Imperial Chinese system “work” and how did China develop before “the West” became a “threat”? What drove “the West” to try to force China into the “modern world?” How did different groups of Chinese people respond? Why did revolution become an important model and goal for many Chinese at the time? And what does “Early Modern Chinese History” mean in the first place?
This is an introductory course; no previous knowledge of Chinese history is assumed or expected. Lectures will focus on the broad outlines of key events, themes and ideas for this incredibly fascinating history. You will also be introduced to major thematic fields of research as well as key secondary works that have helped shaped our understanding of China’s past; assignments and discussions will give you an opportunity to delve more deeply into particular themes, events, people, or places that interest you.
Finally, this course is all about helping you realize that history is not just a matter of names and dates – it’s about finding a way to make another time and place come alive for you. Over the course of the term, I also hope to demonstrate that scholarship is a collegial conversation, which you are all invited to join. This is your class. Take initiative and find your own path through it. Come talk to me if you’re having trouble or if you’re really excited about something. My office door is always open. If not, just knock.
Course Format: This course consists of readings, lectures, and some impromptu class discussions. Students will be expected to attend two lectures per week and complete the assigned readings in advance. The readings include primary documents, historical studies, and some fictional reconstructions. Class interaction will be heavily encouraged.
To give students a critical and useful approach to think about China, past and present.
To deepen students’ familiarity with Chinese history, whatever their background knowledge.
To encourage students to bring their own unique skill sets and knowledge to their study of Chinese history.
To give students a chance to research a topic of their own choosing and be able to discuss it intelligently verbally and in written form.
To develop critical thinking in the use of written sources.
To help students significantly improve their writing abilities.
Jonathan Spence, Search for Modern China, 2nd ed. (W.W. Norton and Co., 2001) (SMC)
This is the second book that I ever read on Chinese History. It is extremely well written and is quite complete in its coverage. If you just own one book on Chinese history, this is probably your best bet. This text is designed to complement my thematic lectures in greater narrative detail. It is also the textbook for the continuation of this course, Hist 367 “Modern China” (so you can either keep it for next term or sell it when you are done!)
History 366 Course pack (CP)
The Course pack includes a collection of primary and secondary sources, which I will refer to in the lectures. I am sure that you will find some of the readings, such as Paul Cohen’s article on the Boxers interesting if not even shocking. Other readings, such as Hegel’s ramblings on China you will most likely find to be a tough slog. Try to give each of these readings a chance. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas about the readings please do not hesitate to come and see me. If time permits we will also spend the last half hour of Thursday’s lecture discussing the weekly readings.
Sarah Schneewind, A Tale of Two Melons; Emperor and Subject in Ming China (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2006)
In this wonderfully concise book, Schneewind builds on a bizarre melon controversy that took place in 1372 to explain the moral, political and cosmological underpinnings of state and society in Late Imperial China.
Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2008)
This book provides a unique view into the seventeenth century using paintings of the Dutch masters to piece together the economic and cultural connections between Europe, China and the rest of the world (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008). It gracefully demonstrates the new scholarly emphasis on “Chinese History” as “Global History.”
Course Requirements: There are two different grading/weighting configurations for this course. You have the choice of which configuration you would like to be evaluated on; however, you must email me with your decision by no later than Thursday September 27th. If I do not receive an email from you by this date, you will be evaluated according to “Configuration A” listed below – no exceptions
1. Short Book Review (Oct 2nd) 15%
2. Research Assignment
Part A. Research Paper Outline (Nov 1st) 5%
Part B. Final Research Paper (Nov 27th) 35%
3. Mid Term Examination (In Class: Oct 25th) 40%
4. Attendance and Participation 5%
1. Short Book Review (Oct 2nd) 15%
2. Research Assignment
Part A. Research Paper Outline (Nov 1st ) 5%
Part B. Final Research Paper (Nov 27th ) 35%
3. Mid Term Examination (In Class: Oct 25th) 30%
4. Attendance and Participation 5%
5. Reading Responses (due throughout the term) 10%
1. Short Book Review (15%) The Chinese history field has seen major changes and a dramatic growth in popularity in the past 20 years. Not only have new historiographical approaches altered the way that historians approach the Chinese past, but, perhaps even more importantly, the recent re-emergence of China onto the global stage has forced us to think about the Chinese historical experience in a completely different light. The aim of this short assignment is to introduce you to a few excellent examples of this new type of popularized “China Studies”, which is primarily aimed at western audiences and seeks to challenge longstanding assumptions about the Chinese past. For this assignment you are asked to write a short analytic book review (3-4 pages) for either Sarah Schneewind’s A Tale of Two Melons, or Timothy Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat. This review should not only summarize the overall arching theme/argument of your chosen book, but also discuss some of the historical stereotypes challenged by Schneewind or Brook. At least three outside resources should be consulted to help you construct your review. Two of these three can be the Spence textbook and/or sources from the coursepack
This short book review should be 3-4 pages double-spaced.
Due: Oct 2nd in class
2. RESEARCH PAPER ASSIGNMENTS: 2. a : Research Paper Outline (5%): Several weeks before the final essay is due students will submit an research paper worth 5% of the total grade. This proposal should offer a creativeworking title and also include a clear thesis statement, some preliminary notes and ideas on the topic as well as a tentative bibliography of at least 6 sources. The goal of this assignment is to think through the argument and structure of your paper in advance. For this assignment I have only a carrot, no stick. If you email it to me on time, I will read and comment on how feasible the topic and sources are. If you are late I will not give you written comments, but as always, you are free to come to my office hours with questions.
The proposal should be no longer than one page, single spaced.
Due: Friday Nov 1st, by email by 11:59pm.
2.b: Final Research Paper (35%): The objective for this final paper is that you produce an original piece of work that you are happy with and that explores an area of history that interests you. It should offer a novel and interesting thesis and provide more than just a simplistic narrative of events. The final product should demonstrate your ability to construct an argument around a chosen primary source and display some knowledge of the secondary literature surrounding your topic. You should consult a total of at least 8 primary and/or secondary sources in your final paper. In terms of structure, make sure to include an introduction and thesis where you introduce the topic (please avoid vague statements about the broad sweep of Chinese history—be specific and focus on your topic and what you will say about it). Have a middle where you used examples from your primary source(s) and secondary sources to back up your argument. Then have a conclusion, where you remind the reader of your main thesis, how you got there and what its implications are. Feel free to be more adventurous with this conclusion and branch out into other questions, themes, and ideas.
The paper needs to include a title page, be paginated and stapled, have footnotes or endnotes, and be typed and double-spaced in 12 point font. The final paper should be 10 pages in length.
3. Mid Term Exam (30-40%): In Class - Thursday October 25th The midterm exam will be based on readings found in your textbook, the weekly readings and on information from class lectures. The format will include a few short answer questions, a short essay style response and a map question. The mid term will be held in class on October 27th. This exam is not designed to trick or stump you, nor is it a Chinese spelling test. You will not be required to memorize long lists of Chinese names or places. Rather, I want to see how you think through the course material and engage with some of its broader themes.
4. Attendance and Participation (5%) You are required to attend class regularly. You are also expected to be prepared to discuss the lectures and assigned readings during classes. Classes are also an opportunity for you to ask questions or seek clarification about course materials. Good discussion requires careful preparation – be aware that I pose questions to students at random. This puts a great deal of responsibility on you to be prepared. I am most interested in your informed discussion. I will try to make it easy for you to speak up; if you have any worries let me know. Office hour consultations, especially for the essay topic choice and book review, also count towards your final participation mark.
5. Readings and Responses (Configuration B - 10%): Over the course of the term you will be asked to read a selection of works related to the themes discussed in the lectures (the majority of these readings are found in the coursepack). These readings are designed to introduce you to both primary documents regarding the period of history in question as well as a few important secondary works in the Early Modern Chinese history field. We will aim to discuss these readings during the last half an hour of Thursday’s class. If there is enough interest, I will also organize a few optional discussion groups over the course of the term where we can all meet and talk about the materials. The dates for these groups will be announced later on in the term
Before the course ends, you are asked to submit two short responses (approximately 500 words) to the readings. The writing style can be informal and reflexive; however, you must cite all your work as you would any standard research essay. No outside research is necessary for these responses, but if you would like to consult some extra sources this is fine too. How you choose to write these responses is up to you. You can address the week’s readings as a whole or focus on something as small as a single word in one text. These responses should not simply summarize the texts but rather focus on an issue, theme or problem that you find interesting and worth discussing. I strongly encourage you to submit at least one reading response as early as possible so that you can improve on your second submission.
Due throughout the term one week after the class for which the particular reading was assigned.
Late Policy: All paper assignments turned in late will be penalized by 2% per day late, unless there are some extenuating circumstances which have been cleared with me (and which you may be asked to document). Please note however, that any reasonable requests for alternate due dates will be considered. This policy is designed to be fair to all students in the course.
On Plagiarism: Plagiarism means claiming someone else’s work as your own, without crediting him or her. In a university context, this amounts to theft. It is also unfair to other students. You can face severe penalties from the university if you are found to have plagiarized. Always keep the notes and rough drafts of your papers. If you have questions about when and how to ascribe information or ideas to others, please come see me and we can discuss appropriate writing techniques.
For more information see:
“In accord with Concordia University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.”
Schedule: Week 1
Tues Sept 4 – Course Overview
Thurs Sept 6 – Orientations: Language, Geography and Historiography in “Chinese” and World History
Readings: CP, 1,2
Tues Sept 11 – Manufacturing Confucianism: Political and Social Systems of Late Imperial China
Thurs Sept 13 – The Two Coasts of China: the Silk Road, Maritime Spice Routes and the Silver Trade
Readings: CP, 3
Long Reading: Sarah Schneewind, A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China
Tues Sept 18 – Financial Flows: The World that Silver Created
Thurs Sept 20 – Class Discussion of Tale of Two Melons and Vermeer’s Hat
Long Reading: Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World
Tues Sept 25 – The Manchu Conquest of China: Violence, Accommodation and Collaboration
Thurs Sept 27 – The High Qing 1683-1796 and the “New Qing” History
Lecture Readings: SMC, 26-116
Readings: CP, 4, 5a-b, 6
Tues Oct 2 – Cultural Flows: Jesuits in the Imperial Court To Build a Sino-Christian Civilization: Jesuit Translation and Accommodation in Late Imperial China: 1582-1721
Thurs Oct 4 – Scratches on our Minds: “China” in the European Imagination: 13th - 21st Centuries
Lecture Readings: SMC, 117-137
Readings: CP, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (this last one is very difficult, skim in places and try your best!)