General History of China - Recommendation?

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General History of China - Recommendation?

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maj 23, 2012, 10:03 pm

I was watching PBS the other day and a program came on that touched on China's history in general. Awakening came swiftly of my lack of knowledge of Chinese history, other 20th century to a degree. And, even there, I remember reading Barbara Tuchman's Stilwell and the American Experience in China some time ago and being somewhat at sea and lightly researching various things that came up in it.

Anyway, is there a general history (or, histories, if approaching the subject in a more in depth, divided way) that you could recommend to a Chinese history schmo?

Thanks, bookblotter, a/k/a Munn

maj 23, 2012, 11:25 pm

There are all sorts of general histories to recommend these days. For a very brief history you might want to try A Short History of the Chinese People by L. Carrington Goodrich. It is rather old but does provide a general overview. A more recent survey would be Valerie Hansen's The Open Empire. It doesn't follow China's history dynasty by dynasty but rather looks at larger themes in China's civilization. Ah, almost forgot, it doesn't go past the 17th century. Jacques Gernet's A History of Chinese Civilization is a nice, thick, more academic history than those above. Frederick Mote's Imperial China 900-1800 is also a good overview even if it doesn't cover all of Chinese history.

Recently Harvard University Press has put out a series of one volume dynastic histories aimed at, I imagine, an undergraduate audience. The first is The Early Chinese Empires which covers the Qin and Han. The last volume is China's Last Empire by William T. Rowe. The series, unfortunately, doesn't cover pre-Qin China. I don't have any single recommendation to make this except for the Cambridge History of Ancient China, but it is definitely an academic work and therefore may be too much information. I hope you can find something from among these titles to help you.

maj 24, 2012, 8:44 am

I like John King Fairbank's China: a new history, although my copy dates from 1992 and I don't know if it's been updated since. But if you're looking for early Chinese history, I don't suppose that will have changed too much... Around 450 pages, going from Paleolithic China to Tiananmen Sq.

maj 26, 2012, 1:09 pm

Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I'm starting at it!

feb 7, 2013, 8:24 am

Reischauer's and Fairbank's East Asia: The Great Tradition is excellent if you can find it somewhere. The newer East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, Revised Edition is probably good also, but I've only read the former.