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Archives at the margins: Luo Zhenyu's Qing documents and nationalism in republican China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that Luo Zhenyu’s tussles with contemporary intellectuals over the proper dividing line between private and public ownership of the past helped define Qing Dynasty historical materials and shiliao more generally: documents defined by proximity to state power and often made public (or not) through the grace of state power, and yet materials whose ultimate ownership, in the sense of their usefulness to the private intellectual as well as to the realm of governmentality, remains somewhere in-between. It seeks to trace the path whereby Luo Zhenyu’s private collection both undermined and promoted the goals of what would emerge as modern Chinese historical archives. As historians commenting on China’s turbulent 20th-century, we must be particularly cautious in how we judge Republican Period intellectuals and their pro- or nonnationalist choices. We may dislike nationalism when it gives rise to violence or provides an ideological cover for authoritarianism.

Keywords: China’s turbulent 20th-century; governmentality; historical materials; Luo Zhenyu; modern Chinese historical archives; nationalism; Qing Dynasty; Republican Period; shiliao



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