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China: A New History by John King Fairbank

China: A New History (1992)

by John King Fairbank

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Quintessential book of the history of the Chinese people and culture. Written without the prejudice born during the Red Scare. Factual and seemingly unbiased. Wonderful read. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
This splendid general history of China is an authoritative guide through millennia, yet it also includes a great amount of material on recent Chinese history, especially in the chapters added by Merle Goldman. The late professor Fairbank is our guide most of the way, and his easy style makes for delightful reading.
The book addresses a number of continuing themes, such as the contrast between state and family, between urban and rural, between ruling elite and the masses. It devotes considerable time to the development and evolution of Confucian thought and the way that philosophical system influenced the government and culture of China. Fairbank also spends some time tracing the development of Mao thought. In addition, the author eases the way for the Westerner by comparing developments in China with similar developments in European history.
Two very useful features in this book: 1.) every so often Fairbank will pause to survey areas that should receive further scholarly research; 2.) an extensive guide to further reading for any subject that the reader might find of interest. All in all, this book is a wonderful narrative history and a worthy introduction to an important topic. ( )
1 vote barlow304 | May 15, 2010 |
There is more of a focus on the Qing dynasty and after. In general, when compared to Hucker and Gernet, Fairbank & Goldman (I abbreviate 'Fairbank' from here on) are more closely interested in mechanisms, both governmental and economic, that predominated during historical times. He gives references to the range of academic studies concerning particular issues without getting bogged down in academic disputes.

However none of the books give a convincing explanation of the decline in wealth that took place in the 18th and 19th century. Fairbank emphasizes the law of diminishing returns, which existed in Europe, as well, so why should it be the primary explanation in this case? More reasonable is his comment that "merchants never broke free of official supervision, if not domination" (p. 179).

Note that the coverage of foot-binding here is far superior to that of Gernet and Hucker, who both largely ignore this practice.

Merle Goldsmith's 40-page coverage of the period following the Cultural Revolution is quite useful, although it covers only to 1998. ( )
  mkp | Jan 5, 2010 |
Fascinating book. I knew next to nothing about China's history before reading it, and I usually have difficulty reading history at all, but Fairbank handles the subject quite well, and adds the occasional dash of dry humor (which I was entirely not expecting).
  coyotecolored | Sep 24, 2005 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John King Fairbankprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goldman, MerleContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Modern China's political journalism was generally polemical, aiming to criticize and advocate, not primarily to inform the public as to facts.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674018281, Paperback)

John King Fairbank was the West's doyen on China, and this book is the full and final expression of his lifelong engagement with this vast ancient civilization. It remains a masterwork without parallel. The distinguished historian Merle Goldman brings the book up to date, covering reforms in the post-Mao period through the early years of the twenty-first century, including the leadership of Hu Jintao. She also provides an epilogue discussing the changes in contemporary China that will shape the nation in the years to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

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