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Educating the citizens: Visions of China in late Qing history textbooks

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Chapter Summary

In recent years, the late Qing invention of national history has received considerable attention. Taking a “history of ideas” approach, scholars such as Prasenjit Duara, Rebecca Karl, Xiaobing Tang, Edward Wang, and Ying-shih Yü discuss how late Qing historians adopted foreign concepts such as the nation-state, linear progress, and scientific rationality. This chapter examines the late Qing historical discourse from the perspective of the social and political changes at the turn of the 20th century. Focusing on history textbooks, the author's premise is that the late Qing historical discourse emerged in a critical moment when the Qing government was building a national school system to replace the civil service examinations. Described by Ping-ti Ho as “the ladder of success” for the literati, the civil service examination system had been the main vehicle of social mobility for the educated elite for centuries.

Keywords: civil service examination; foreign concepts; historical discourse; history textbooks; late Qing; national history; national school system; Qing government



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