Modern China

Understand China through the lens of the latest scholarship.
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961 students enrolled
Instructed by Pamela Crossley
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  • Lectures 23
  • Length 4.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 1/2012 English

Course Description

A Faculty Project Course - Best Professors Teaching the World

Earlier scholarship on China has left us with a set of assumptions and characterizations that still powerfully affect opinion columns, television commentary, and popular books. In this course, we will rely on recent research and analysis to reach a new understanding of China's recent past, its present and future.

"2020" (part 1) the latest segment of Lecture Three, has been posted. This begins the last segment of the course.

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Section 1: Introduction

An introduction and overview of the course, "Modern China." This is the version for desktop computers.

An introduction to and tips for use of the software channel.
Section 2: Chapter 1: Fundamental Themes

Chapter 1, Part 1

2 pages

Details on books discussed, and links to reliable reading about the themes.


Chapter 1, Part 2

2 pages

Outline, reading links and short timeline for Chapter 1, Part 2 (China's population)


Part 3 of Lecture 1.

3 pages



Last segment of Chapter 1.

1 page

Preliminary background for the last segment of this chapter.

Section 3: Chapter 2: Losing the Empire
1 page

The Nineteenth Century: 1796-1896


Chapter 2, Lecture 1 of the course.

2 pages

Who Were the Last Emperors of China?


The challenges of governing a large territory in the early modern period explain many of the problems of communication and control in the nineteenth century.


This is the first of three parts of a lecture that will cover the Taiping War and the Muslim uprisings of the late 19th century.


"The Taiping War."  Part 3, "The Muslim Wave" will be posted June 4.


"The Muslim Wave," the final lecture of the "Rebel Nation" module of the second lecture, "The Nineteenth Century."


The last segment of Chapter 2. Chapter 3, the last chapter, begins with the next segment, "The Withering State."

Section 4: Chapter 3: Creating China

This is the first section of Chapter 3, the final chapter of the course. It explores the problem of fracturing of central governance and emergence of regional government in the very late nineteenth century, creating China's profound early twentieth-century problem of entrenched local power and a weak or absent center.

Could China be reunited by force of arms in 1928? We examine the factors leading up to the dramatic story of the Northern Expedition.

This is the second section of Chapter 3 of the course. The last two sections will be "1949" and "2020."

Segment 3 of Lecture 3 covers ideological wars, as well as the war against Japanese invasion, as the background to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
1949 - Part 2

This episode deals with the tumultuous 1950s, with an exclusive interview with writer Frank Dikotter (Mao's Great Famine).

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Instructor Biography

Pamela Crossley, Professor of History - Dartmouth College

Pamela Crossley is author of the influential new history of modern China, The Wobbling Pivot. She has taught history at Dartmouth College since 1985. She is a specialist on the history of the Qing empire, but has also written extensively on modern China, the Liao dynasty, Mongol history and global history. Her book, Orphan Warriors: Three Manchu Generations and the End of the Qing World (Princeton, 1990), opened up new vistas on the cultural and identity dynamics of modern China. Her subsequent book, The Manchus (Blackwell, 1997) was a special selection of the History Book Club, and continues to be widely taught in undergraduate classes. In 2001 she was awarded the Joseph R. Levenson Prize by the Association for Asian Studies for her book, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (California, 1999). Her scholarly articles have appeared in Late Imperial ChinaThe Journal of Asian StudiesThe American Historical Review, and she has contributed upon invitation to three separate series of the Cambridge histories, as well as the The Oxford History of Historical Writing.

Crossley is also a scholar of global history. She was one of the original authors of the breakthrough text The Earth and its Peoples (1997 and subsequent), and continues as co-author of Global Society: The World since 1900 (now in its third edition). Her short volume, What is Global History? (Polity, 2008) has been praised as both concise and illuminating.

Apart from more scholarly works, Crossley has also contributed to The New York Times Literary Review, The New Republic, CalliopeThe Royal Academy of Arts Magazine, Education about Asia, The Gale History of Modern China, The Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, The National Interest, Wall Street Journal and BBC Online.

Crossley is a software author, working to integrate texts and teaching methods through digital media. The software module used to extend teaching and communication resources for all teaching modern China, including those who use The Wobbling Pivot in their own classes, has been designed and authored by her, and is in a process of constant development (like The Wobbling Pivot itself). Users are warmly encouraged to share their criticisms and suggestions for improvement.

Dartmouth has awarded its prizes both for distinguished scholarship (in 1990) and for distinguished teaching (in 2011) to Crossley. Her scholarly research as been supported by the ACLS, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

Crossley lives in Norwich, Vermont. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Yale University.

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