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China and “Modernity”: the Uses of the Study of Chinese History in the Past and the Present

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The central focus of this paper is the lack of impact Euro-centric theories of development have made on twentieth century historical writing by leading Chinese and Japanese scholars. The author reviews publications by three important historians, Naitō Konan, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, and Yü Ying-shih, all of whom attempt to locate China's first experience with “modernity” prior to nineteenth or twentieth century encounters with the West. Although all three historians differ in their interpretation of the concept “modernity,” they find Chinese culture a central feature in the identification of this concept. Furthermore, all three writers rely upon historical evidence, in particular economic and social data, to counter claims of China's history as a process of linear development.


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