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The boundary of source materials for recent Chinese history and the integrity of historiography: With reference to the compilation and publication of relevant historical materials

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image of Frontiers of History in China

With a dramatic expansion in quantity and variety, the amount of recent history source materials has surpassed the sum total of those available for all earlier dynasties. At the same time, compared with the case in ancient history study, the obscure boundary of source materials has made it difficult for historians to locate and obtain what they need for their research. Since it is impossible to exhaust or to ascertain the boundary of relevant sources, scholars either retreat into narrower fields or make arbitrary interpretations of materials, both contributing to the loss of orientation in historical study, and, for that matter, eroding the integrity of historiography. Historians must, first and foremost, acquire a comprehensive understanding of the discipline before they can undertake studies on any particular subject, which is the proper way to conduct historical study and to avoid short-sightedness or a tunnel vision of the scene. The author of this paper believes that it is urgent to resolve the dilemma in preserving and utilizing source materials by publishing as many materials as possible efficiently so that scholars on recent Chinese history can stand on an equal footing as far as materials are concerned. Only in this way will they be able to undertake deeper investigations, to uncover the complex correlation between source materials and historical study, and ultimately, to contribute to recent history study as a whole.


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