New CASS outcome innovates historiography of modern China

Source: Chinese Social Sciences Today 2024-03-21

On March 1, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) held a press conference to release a major academic outcome: A General History of Modern China (Revised Edition).

Published by Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, the 10-volume work comprises a total of 5.55 million Chinese characters, offering a comprehensive overview of research findings on modern Chinese history over the past 70-odd years, with a particular focus on the recent two decades. As the first large general history of modern China framed within the 1840–1949 period, it not only breaks the line between the history of the late Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and the Republican Era (1911–1949) in terms of dynastic or era-based history, but also integrates early modern and modern history of China, as delineated by the 1919 May-Fourth Movement, constructing a novel framework of modern Chinese history and paving the way for deeper studies of the field.

During his speech at the conference, CASS Vice President Zhen Zhanmin noted that A General History of Modern China (Revised Edition) meticulously examines modern China’s arduous journey from “sinking” to “ascending,” offering invaluable experience for contemporary Chinese modernization.

From the perspective of academic development, the work comprehensively portrays the history of modern China as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society from 1840 to 1949, Zhen said. With national independence, people’s liberation, and national unification and prosperity as the basic thread, it builds a relatively complete disciplinary system for modern Chinese history and sets a broad stage for further research of the field, opening up new horizons.

According to Zhang Haipeng, lead editor of A General History of Modern China (Revised Edition) and a CASS Member, the work represents a collective achievement by scholars at the Institute of Modern History at CASS. The first edition, published in 2006, received wide acclaim across society and academia. The new edition is a holistic revision, incorporating the latest research outcomes under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Chen Qianping, a professor of history from Nanjing University, pointed out that the histories of revolutions and modernization were usually antagonized or conflicted in previous studies of modern Chinese history. A General History of Modern China (Revised Edition) proposes research dominated by the paradigm of revolutionary history, in combination with the modernization research model, creating a scientific paradigm for modern Chinese history research.

The writing of formal Chinese history is based on the general history of each dynasty or era, said Li Fan, a professor of history from Beijing Normal University. In current historiographical practices, works of modern Chinese history are mostly brief history, specialized history, or topical history, with general history few and far between. Written and published in the style of era-based general history, A General History of Modern China (Revised Edition) inherits Chinese historiographical traditions and sets an example for historians to compile dynastic or era-based history in new forms and styles.

Editor:Yu Hui
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