The Making of Modern China: War, Revolution, and Reform (HIH2180A)

StaffJunqing Wu -
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will seek to understand the radical transformation China underwent over the past 150 years. As empire gave way to republic, Nationalism to Communism, and Communism to capitalism the human costs were profound, the long term consequences immense. In exploring these events students will be invited to consider the paradoxes of the Chinese past. Why for example did the Nationalist government of the 1930s turn to the two thousand year old creed of Confucianism to ‘modernise’ China? How did Marxists who saw the industrial working class as a revolutionary force turn a nation of peasants into the most populous ‘socialist’ society in the world? And why has an ostensibly Communist government come to embrace the radical force of capitalism?

Alongside reading widely in recommended secondary literature and contributing to classroom discussions and formal presentations students will have the chance to draw on translated primary source material including memoirs, diaries, and propaganda posters. By the end of the module, students will be able to analyse the factors and events that have shaped China from 1840 to 2000, and forge independent arguments through critical engagement with primary and secondary material

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop a broad knowledge of main political, social, economic and cultural developments in the history of modern China.
  • 2. Understand a number the key historiographical debates in the field
  • 3. Evaluate and examine a range of primary sources that shed light on state and society relations in China and the country’s relationship with the wider world.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse the key developments of the period
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 6. Interpret primary sources.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments.
  • 8. Recognise and deploy historical terminology correctly.
  • 9. Assess different approaches to historical writing in areas of controversy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions
  • 11. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with little guidance
  • 12. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

Provisional Topics:

Imperial Encroachment and Domestic Revolt, 1839-1901 – Reformers, Revolutionaries, and the End of the Empire – The Republic and the Warlords – Nationalism and Communism – The Nanjing Decade and Cultures of Modernity – Beyond Nanjing: Rural Realities – Imperialism and the Road to War – Life Under Japanese Occupation – Free China and the Communist Base Areas – The Civil War and the Collapse of Nationalist China – Establishing the People’s Republic – Urban and Rural Experiences – The Great Leap Forward – Mao and the Cultural Revolution – The Cultural Revolution and Everyday Life – From Maoism to Market Revolution – Tiananmen Square and Beyond

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities22 hoursLectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22 hoursSeminars; these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and present on a given topic in groups of 4 on 4 occasions
Guided Independent Study22 hoursWeb-based activities located on ELE – preparation for seminars and presentations
Guided Independent Study 234 hoursReading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan x 1500 words1-12Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303,000 Words1-12Written and verbal
Group Presentation2025 Minutes1-11Written and verbal
Exam502 Questions in 2 Hours1-12Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay3,000 Words1-12Referral/deferral period
Group PresentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-11Referral/deferral period
Exam2 Questions in 2 Hours1-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (Oxford, 2005).

Rana Mitter, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2008).

Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic (New York, 1999).

Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China (New York, 1999).

Peter Zarrow, China in War and Revolution, 1895-1949 (London, 2005). 

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