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Early Modern Chinese History: Books and Problems (An Old and Rare Book)

Early Modern Chinese History: Books and Problems (An Old and Rare Book)
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Item Code: NAX503
Author: Diptendra M. Banerjee
Publisher: The University of Burdwan
Language: English
Edition: 1964
Pages: 205
Other Details: 8.50 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.34 kg
I am happy to foreword this interesting book by Diptendra Mohan Banerjee, once my student and now my colleague. Studies of the history of modern Far East, that clumsy term to describe East Asia; have not progressed much in this country, despite the growing importance of this region in contemporary times. Banerjee book has done a good job in listing numerous publications on early modern Chinese history. What he has done is not, of course, mere cataloguing. The reviews are discerning, and often vigorous. What strikes me most is Banerjee method which, I feel, is most suited for constructive analysis. His classification of the subjects, though somewhat unorthodox, reveals, above all, his deep sense of analysis. Banerjee has analyzed the historical background of each of the subjects so classified, and has pointed out the dominant trends of relevant historical writings.

Such an arrangement is perhaps unavoidable, since different trends in historical writings have developed parallel to each other in the nineteenth century which witnessed the rise of kulturgeschichte and the very significant impact of the social sciences upon historical writing.

The book reflects recent scholarship in the field and describes the theoretical and methodological developments in the study of political and socio-economic history of early modern China. It develops an organismic-type working hypothesis, the intent of which is to unite political history with eco4omics and the social sciences in a new multi-discipline science of history. The author does not apprehend the withering away of the `historical method' as more and more new disciplines will have joined the effort to study China's long-spread historical society. Thus the author provides increased emphasis on inter-disciplinary utilities in the field of historical research and traces the major forces that have shaped the life of China, analyzing the attitudes of the historians towards the country and its people.

Indian universities have not been much interested in modern Chinese history, until recently. The academic tradition under British rule has made Indians familiar more with the "glory" that was European civilization (of course, up to its pre-socialist, liberal-democratic phase) than with civilizations nearer home. Indians have been taught to feel charmed at the harangues of Burke and Macaulay rather than to study Ch'en Sheng and Wu Kang who raised as early as 209 BC the disturbing question: "Are princes, lords, generals, and prime ministers a race apart?" Distinguished scholars have talked more about the noble culture of Rome (minus, of course, the Spartacus element) than about the remarkable progress of science in ancient China. Indology-or Indian history-has, it is true, figured in the subjects taught, but scarcely the history of any other Asian country.

That India's independence has released new forces in the field of historical scholarship is indisputable. Nevertheless, even today the tradition of the past hangs over. For one. Thing,, scholarly writings are still frequently tagged on to the plea for "objectivity", with the doors shut against all controversies and polemics. The result is, often, a complete absence of value judgments. For another thing, the growth of a secular intellectual milieu is being continually stifled by the autochthonous Brahmanic tradition which, like the closed outlook of the Church-dominated mediaeval Europe, is working as a dead-weight on the sceptical mind. I may even hazard that this intellectual climate is responsible for much of the wastage of recent efforts and resources. No wonder that expediency in a society with immature secular intellectual tradition is responsible for the occasional choice of research-subjects in terms of convenience. Obscurity of a subject, or its triteness, is not always a consideration.

The subject of this essay is early modern Chinese history. Now, what is early modern, and why? This poses the problem of periodization and the controversy associated with it. It is well known that the traditional Chinese view of history sponsors the idea of dynastic cycles, and most earlier discussions on periodization have revolved around the concept of the recurring rise and fall of dynasties, each following the same cycle of rise in virtue and decay in vice, but each time with a new cast. Modern historians have come forward with more sophisticated concepts, but they have differed, often sharply, in their search for a great divide.' The only area of agreement in modern western historical opinion lies in the assertion that the modern period of Chinese history began with the impact of the west in the nineteenth century. It is not necessary to start a fracas with this view, for any objection on the part of an Asian writer is liable to be dubbed in western countries as pure and simple emotionalism. But while this essentially Europocentric theory magnifies the concept of Asiatic stagnation, it also smacks of the easy-going view that modernism and western impact are coterminous.

Coming to other notable theories on the periodization of China's history, one may be punished if he does not mention the heavy-weight hypothesis of Naito.2 This suggests that a "modern" period began in China through a distinctive change that came about between the T'ang and Sung periods. It was a sea change, comparable to Europe's Renaissance, for it signified not merely the breakdown of the old aristocratic domination but also the beginning of freedom and opportunities for commoners as well as the increasing viguour of autocratic despotism.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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