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Colonialism, Post-Colonialism, and Transnationalism


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Could anyone suggest some books which examine these topics in relation to modern Chinese history, say from the time of the Opium Wars through the Republican era? English or Chinese is fine.

I'm interested in learning more about the theory behind these concepts, and how they relate to history.

In addition, I'm also interested in learning about the treaty ports (1842-1943), so any books which examine those cities and/or foreign/Chinese life would be greatly appreciated as well.


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Hi Kdavid,

I suspect there would be a few on colonialism and post-colonialism in regards to China. Not sure about Transnationalism (maybe something on Hong Kong?).

I suspect someone would be able to recommend a book that covers the period pretty well but from my perspective there are the general books that at least consider colonial/ Chinese experience whilst addressing other topics (like Jonathon Spence –“The Search for Modern China”).

One that might offer some interesting ideas on colonialism is “History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth”. This book is chiefly concerned with the Boxer Uprising as well as the craft of History. By assessing how history is written and the influence of the present day upon the view of the past – it takes in ideas on colonialism and post-colonialism to some extent. I’m not sure how useful this would be but it considers amongst other things the Boxer’s own lives and factors that contributed to the uprising, in the process dismissing some ideas that it was a straightforward xenophobic reaction to “the colonisers”. Inevitably it also dismantles rather the post-1949 mainland view of the event as a precursor of communist victory (with emphasis on banishment of foreign enemies in this case, rather than the GMD). There will be more relevant works for sure so take a look first.

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Not sure how helpful this would be but I read a fascinating book about before the West arrived, so before the western idea of the Westphalian nation state arrived to East Asia, with lots of information about how the Chinese hegemony operated, in particular with Korea, Japan and Vietnam. It may not be relevant or it may be nothing you don't know already but for me it was a real eye-opener to the practical side of how inter-country relations worked in Asia until the last 150 years or so (which presumably would influence how China dealt with issues of sovereignty and colonialism once the West arrived in force).

The book is East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute (Contemporary Asia in the World).

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