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A Concise History of China by J. A. G.…

A Concise History of China (1999)

by J. A. G. Roberts

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In 1991 Jung Chang published Wild Swans, a personal history of China as seen through the eyes of her grandmother, her mother and herself.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674000757, Paperback)

This compact and accessible book successfully condenses four millennia of Chinese history into 300 pages. J.A.G. Roberts of Huddersfield University leads the reader through the chronological framework, adding sufficient detail and anecdote to provide color and texture. His writing is clear and punchy: every sentence counts. The index is thoughtful, the book's 10 maps helpful. Though the emphasis is on political history, economic and social developments are also described; for example, the introduction of a strain of rice from central Vietnam that allowed a significant expansion in population under the Song. The first half of the book takes the story to the beginning of the 19th century; the second half analyzes the modern period in more detail (this is probably a useful division for most readers, though a Chinese historian would have laid more equal emphasis on each dynastic period). The author has incorporated the latest scholarship, such as changing views on the status of women during the Song--their freedoms were not as restricted as was once thought. He uses newly translated Manchu sources to show that Qing successes owed as much to the dynasty's non-Han characteristics as to sinicization--a reversal of conventional wisdom--and approaches the dynamics of China's response to the West from a more Chinese viewpoint than is usual. A Concise History of China is an up-to-date and extremely useful introduction to a highly complex subject. --John Stevenson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:13 -0400)

The centuries-long complexity of China's political experience, the richness of its culture, and the drama of its economic unfolding are the hallmarks of this short but sweeping history. China's own history is entwined with its response to the West in a rich tapestry depicting its peoples, rulers, and society. More than a nuanced history of a vast continent, this study is sensitive to the multifaceted and changing interpretations of China that have been offered over the years.In this overarching book, J. A. G. Roberts refers to recent archeological finds--the caches of bronze vessels found at Sanxingdui--and to new documentary reevaluations--the reassessment of Manchu documentation. The first half of the book provides an up-to-date interpretation of China's early and imperial history, while the second half concentrates on the modern period and provides an interpretive account of major developments--the impact of Western imperialism, the rise of Chinese Communism, and the record of the People's Republic of China since 1949.Concise and direct, this book is a compelling narrative and handy companion for those interested in China.… (more)

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