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Chinese society in the 19th century from multiple time-space perspectives: Case studies in regional social history

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image of Frontiers of History in China

Should studies of social history engage in questions of important socio-political changes? The answer is undoubtedly affirmative. So far as the important changes in 19th century China are concerned, some case studies in regional social history have presented a picture of greater complexity and diversity. The Ningbo case, for example, shows that when a port that has had a history of foreign trade becomes embroiled in conflict between Chinese and foreigners, this conflict may simply become one mode of interaction amongst many between Chinese and foreigners. The case of Turmot is an important turning point in Chinese history, since it marks the reversal of 2 000 years of frequent attempts by nomadic tribes to expand southward. This trend is completely reversed by the Han nationalities’ northward immigration and reclamation, a development as significant as the Western invasion of China in terms of consequent social transformations. These historical traces revealed from within regions deepen our comprehension of these social transformations; consequently, such studies in social history may manage to provide answers different from those offered by the traditional model of political history.


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