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The new schools and national identity: Chinese history textbooks in the late Qing

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Chapter Summary

History textbook authors, while enthusiastically accepting the duty of instilling patriotism as one of their goals, tended to let their historical narrative speak for itself. Yet if historical knowledge was not reducible to the production of national feeling, neither was identity a mere byproduct of the installation of history into children’s minds. Rather, in the context of the late Qing, Chinese history and national identity were so intertwined as to be inseparable. This chapter argues that history textbooks reflected many of the tensions and debates of the late Qing. The goals of the Qing government for its new schools were thus fairly clear. But did the schools and the texts actually taught to children deliver what the Qing wanted? While this chapter can scarcely answer that question completely, it concludes that history textbooks followed the Qing’s guidelines but nonetheless subtly subverted any specific Qing loyalism.

Keywords: Chinese history textbooks; late Qing; national identity; new schools; patriotism



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