Can the term "early modern" be used to describe Chinese history?


Academic Paper, 2013
7 Pages, Grade: 1,3

Excerpt

Is ‘early modern’ a meaningless term?

“Early modernity” is a concept of ambiguity in historiographic scholarship and has been a topic for discussion for several decades. Søren Clausen discussed the term in regard to China in his paper, Early Modern China – A Preliminary Postmortem. For Clausen, the search for a terminology describing an “early modern China” emerged from the urge to incorporate China into a world history, whose importance he stresses in his introductory sentence: “A world that is increasingly becoming ‘one world’ needs a world history”[1]. What he also did was to recap the influence other historians had on the discussion during the 1980s and 90s, which I will partially address later.

First, to answer a question as provocative as “Is ‘early modern’ a meaningless term?” one must investigate the reasoning of the person who inspired it. Here, this person is John A. Goldstone, who wrote a paper called The Problem of the “Early Modern” World, in which he says, “In other words, ‘early modern’ can mean almost nothing, or almost everything, and as such, is a wholly meaningless term”[2]. The problem of an ‘early modern’ China or even world seems to be that the term ‘early modern’ did not evolve out of historiography’s need to label any period in world history or even Chinese history, but “developed out of the need to fill a space in Marxist theory of stages of history”[3]. Thus, applying it to distinctly different historical circumstances than those of an ‘early modern’ Europe can only cause discrepancies in the meaning of the term, rendering it essentially meaningless.

[...]


[1] Clausen 2000, p. 1.

[2] Goldstone 1998, p. 261.

[3] Ibid..

Excerpt out of 7 pages

Details

Title
Can the term "early modern" be used to describe Chinese history?
College
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Course
Late Imperial China - Culture, Politics, History
Grade
1,3
Author
Year
2013
Pages
7
Catalog Number
V274521
ISBN (eBook)
9783656671886
ISBN (Book)
9783656671855
File size
417 KB
Language
English
Tags
China, Chinese, imperial, early modern, Modernism, history, historiography, cultural, discussion, terminology, late imperial China, semiotics
Quote paper
Tony Buchwald (Author), 2013, Can the term "early modern" be used to describe Chinese history?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/274521

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