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Twentieth Century China

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Twentieth Century China: New Approaches
Edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom. A text in the Rewriting Histories series. (London & New York, Routledge: 2003. Pg. xv, 272.) ISBN: 0-415-19504-7.

Reviewed by Leo Johnston - April 15, 2003

History is fluid. New information, new approaches to historiography, and changing sensibilities all influence how history is interpreted. In Twentieth-Century China - New Approaches, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom has compiled an broad range of essays that present fresh and authoritative interpretations of contemporary Chinese history.

The text begins with a comprehensive introduction that provides a brief overview of Chinese history during the 20th century, as well as how historiography investiagtion techniques into Chinese history has changed - and why these changes have occurred. An overview of the material covered in the book, and how the book is organized is also discussed.

For the most part, these essays side away from the western-centric myopia that has been the hallmark of Asian studies for decades. The essays mesh newly recovered historical material with new research and interpretive techniques, along with a solid dose of cultural sensitivity and insights into how the Chinese view their own history - not just how it is interpreted by 'western' onlookers. Combined, these eleven essays offer the reader a unique glimpse at specific elements that will help further your understanding of contemporary China - and by extension, China's potential future.

The scope of this reader can easily be grasped by a quick perusal through a list of the essays to be found in this instructional work: This work is ideal for anyone, including students and academicians, interested in current historical interpretations of Chinese history. All of the essays are preceded by a brief introduction, and most conclude with comprehensive endnotes that can be used as a starting point for future study. The text will also be invaluable for travelers wishing to increase their understanding and appreciation of this intricate and ever-changing country.

Related Reviews:

China on Paper, edited by Marcia Reed and Paola Demattè.
An examination of the exchange of ideas and paper trade goods, such as books, maps, and prints, which occurred between China and Europe from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century.

Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868 - 1930, by Gregory Clancey.
A riveting look at how seismic activity, especially the 1891 Nobi Earthquake, affected Japanese cultural, political, and architectural development and how it altered Japan's relationship with the West.

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