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Discontinuous continuity: The beginnings of a new synthesis of "general history" in 20th-century China

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Chapter Summary

In the midst of the transformative currents in early 20th century thought and political culture in China, a modern genre of Chinese history known as “general history” appeared. The most familiar form of historical writing to general Chinese readers today, this genre was created by historians to fulfill the need for a sense of China’s identity, the need to understand China’s heritage from the past during this time of rapid change. The earliest phase in the development of these general histories began before the collapse of the Qing dynasty, about the time the idea of nation was emerging in the 1890s and 1900s. It was also when the first halting steps were being taken in reforms that led to what would become the post dynastic polity. This chapter examines the beginnings of this new genre to assess what made it different from past historical writing.

Keywords: 20th century; China; general history; historical writing; political culture; Qing dynasty



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