Department of History
History of China II  (HIST 123-01)

China in Transition, 1583-1989
Syllabus for Spring, 2019
  WAL 398 / TR, 09:30 - 10:45

text updated as of  09 Jan 2019

Requirements Texts Handouts Lecture Schedule Policies

H. R. Spendelow 潘克俊, instructor

office hours: ICC 607 / T and R 15:30-17:00, or by appointment
GU website and Facebook

     Course content:
            This course continues a general history of China from the earliest records of Chinese civilization through the first three decades of the People's Republic.  The course is introductory, has no prerequisites, and assumes no prior knowledge of China or its language.  The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching China from a wide range of viewpoints, taking up political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and artistic developments.  In the fall semester, we covered the formation of China's social, political, and philosophical culture(s), going as far as the consolidation of imperial autocracy in the Ming dynasty (14th-16th centuries).

            This term we will cover roughly four centuries: 1583-1989.  We start with  both the resilience and weaknesses of China's imperial system during its final quarter-millennium, including the tensions between a "Middle Kingdom" vision of China as a unitary, advanced, and self-sufficient civilization and the realities of the Manchu Qing state as a multi-ethnic empire in growing competition with others.  We then take up the challenge to China's traditions and stability posed by internal developments as well as external economic and cultural penetration by a number of "outsiders" in the 19th century.  We conclude with China's 20th century experiments in forms of government and search for new directions in social and cultural development, so as to survive, and later thrive, in an increasingly interconnected global environment.

     Course objectives:

  1. to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the history and culture of China;
  2. to nurture a sense of informed empathy with what ordinary Chinese people have experienced over the last six centuries, including nuanced assessments of how effectively the Chinese people have been served by those who claimed to lead them;
  3. to nurture an understanding of the reasons for actions and decisions taken by various "leadership" groups, and the consequences thereof;
  4. through maps and other data-sets, to encourage a viewpoint which connects human actions with the environmental conditions in which they take place;
  5. to use the specific study of China as a means for developing more general skills in the discipline of historical analysis, as elaborated in the Department's statement of mission and learning goals; and
  6. to encourage the universally applicable and necessary skills of critical thinking and persuasive presentation of reasoned argument.

Course requirements for Spring 2019:
Details on the content, format, and expectations for each assignment are linked to each requirement name.
  1. familiarity with all material presented in lectures, hand-outs, and on the course website
  2. all required readings
  3. a two- or three-page biographical introduction (ASAP) [ungraded] (first-time students only)
  4. one 15-minute map quiz (Tue, 29 Jan) [c. 10%]
  5. one fifty-minute mid-term examination (Thu, 28 Feb) [c. 20%]
  6. one short (5-7 pp.) analytical paper
    1. topic statement due Thu, 24 Jan [assessed but ungraded]
    2. prospectus (draft thesis paragraph and outline) due Thu, 14 Feb [assessed but ungraded]
    3. completed paper (final version) due Tue, 16 Apr [c. 35%]
  7. one two-hour final examination (Wed, 08 May, 16:00 - 18:00) [c. 35%] 


  1. Failure to complete any of the Course Requirements listed above will result in automatic failure for the course.
  2. Students are expected to be fully familiar and compliant with the principles and practices outlined in the Georgetown University Honor Code.
  3. As of July 2014, it is University policy that "instructional activities will be maintained during University closures.  Faculty members should prepare for the possibility of an interruption of face-to-face instruction by establishing a policy within the course syllabus to maintain instructional continuity in the case of an unforeseen disruption. During a campus “closure,” the regular class time schedule must be honored by all campus departments so that students will remain available for those faculty members who wish to maintain continuous academic progress through synchronous distance instruction."  Stay tuned as I figure out how best to implement "synchronous distance instruction"...

Required Texts:
  1. Schoppa, R. Keith.  Revolution and its Past:  Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011)
  2. Chen, Cheng, and Lestz, eds.  The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, 3rd ed.  (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014)
  3. Spence, Jonathan D.  To Change China:  Western Advisers in China, 1620-1960 (New York: Penguin, reprint of 1969 ed.)
  4. Teng and Fairbank. China's Response to the West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, reprint of 1954 ed.)

In addition, a number of hand-outs are distributed in class during the course of the semester. Students are responsible for the instructions, guidelines, and other information contained in these hand-outs. While printed versions may be distributed in class, students can obtain extra copies from the course web-site, which, with its associated links, serves as the definitive source for the effective version of all course materials.

Supporting materials:

Schedule of lectures and readings:

Readings, particularly selections from the basic texts, should be completed before the lecture under which they are listed. Assignments are of varied lengths, so plan ahead and pace yourself for the entire semester.

Click here for the current schedule