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eBook Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University) ePub

eBook Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University) ePub

by Paul Cohen

  • ISBN: 0231151934
  • Category: Humanities
  • Subcategory: Other
  • Author: Paul Cohen
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 29, 2010)
  • Pages: 296
  • ePub book: 1755 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1584 kb
  • Other: rtf lit mbr txt
  • Rating: 4.8
  • Votes: 142


Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past is a book by Paul A. Cohen introducing the ideas behind American histories of China since 1840.

Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past is a book by Paul A. It was published by Columbia University Press in 1984 and reprinted with a new preface in 2010.

Paul A. Cohen studied at Cornell University from 1952-1953, before he transferred . Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. Cohen studied at Cornell University from 1952-1953, before he transferred to the University of Chicago, where he received his BA in 1955. He received his MA in 1957 and PhD in 1961 from Harvard University, where he was a student of John King Fairbank and Benjamin I. Schwartz. After completing his doctorate, he worked at the University of Michigan from 1962 to 1963. Between Tradition and Modernity: Wang T’ao and Reform in Late Ch’ing China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Since its first publication, Paul A. Cohen's Discovering History in China has occupied a singular place in American China scholarship. Series: Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. File: PDF, 1. 1 MB. Читать онлайн. Cohen critiques the work of leading postwar scholars and is especially adamant about not reading China through the lens of Western history.

Series: Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. This new introduction to Discovering History in China builds on an essay I wrote several years ago to introduce a volume of my earlier writings. Published by: Columbia University Press. Putting that book together was a fascinating challenge in a number of ways. For one thing, it involved rereading things that in some cases I hadn’t laid eyes on for decades, reminding myself, sometimes happily, sometimes not, of where I was intellectually at various points in my evolution as a historian. Cohen .

Discovering history in china. American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past. Columbia University Press. Discovering History in China operates on two levels: that of the history that direct participants make and experience, and that of the history that historians write. The focus of the book is on the second level, in particular the intellectual constructs used by American historians in the post-World War II era to make sense of the recent Chinese past (by which, in the book, I mean specifically the nineteenth and twentieth centuries).

Serious study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese history did not really get under way in the United .

Serious study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese history did not really get under way in the United States until after World War II. Since then, scholarly. In "Discovering History in China" Cohen argues that much of the scholarship in the West that had occurred on China prior to the mid-1970's, (particularly American scholarship), had been conducted with an "ethnocentric distortion".

Discovering History in China book. Serious study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese history did not really get under way in the United States until after World War II. Since then, scholarly publication has proliferated and a genuine professional field-by far the largest and most active in the West-has taken shape.

The Journal of Asian Studies. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef. A Companion to Chinese Art. p. 1. CrossRef. Google Scholar Citations. View all Google Scholar citations for this article. View all citations for this article on Scopus.

بإمكانك تنزيل كتاب Discovering History in China: American . His most recent book is Speaking to History: The Story of King Goujian i. .

بإمكانك تنزيل كتاب Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past لقراءته بدون اتصال بالإنترنت أو تمييز أجزاء منه أو وضع إشارة مرجعية على بعض صفحاته أو تدوين ملاحظات أثناء القراءة. Paul A. Cohen is Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies and History Emeritus at Wellesley College and an associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University. His most recent book is Speaking to History: The Story of King Goujian in Twentieth-Century China.

Related to Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University)


Bynelad Bynelad
In Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past, Paul A. Cohen contributes insight in to the field of Chinese historiography by investigating what American historians of the post-WWII era have written about China. According to Cohen, American historians of the post-WWII era have been guilty of writing about recent Chinese history with an ethnocentric bias, using a western-centric perspective to interpret the conditions of Chinese historical change and thereby distorting Chinese history. Cohen identifies three biased-based frameworks that he feels American historians erroneously worked inside of: the impact-response model, the traditional-modernity model, and imperialism. All three of these models distorted the West's actual role in Chinese history, in Cohen's opinion, or over-stated it as more influential than it was (x).

Cohen arranges the book in to four parts, the first three chapters are discussions of the three frameworks, and the fourth chapter introduces Cohen’s "China-centered" model for historical interpretation. Discovering History in China is a reflective work as much as it is an assessment of historiographical trends. Cohen admits from the onset that the book was inspired by early moments of personal and professional self-evaluation, which led him to pinpoint some of the biases inherent in his own interpretation of Chinese history. This extended to deeper analyses of other American historians of China, or historians from elsewhere heavily influenced by American models. Cohen protects himself from some criticism by admitting that Discovering History in China is a largely subjective work with a very limited scope (xxxiv). By disclosing that Discovering History in China is not and does not intend to be the definitive statement on Chinese historiography, Cohen does more than protect his method. Cohen effectively opens up a dialogue about Chinese historiography that he invites other Chinese historians to engage in with him, and hopefully inspire other historians to self-assess and to follow up his analyses with further issues within the field.

At the heart of Cohen's argument is a lesson that transcends American and Chinese borders, and can be beneficial to historians throughout the world no matter their field. The dichotomy between the role something is perceived as having played in history and the role it actually played is a flaw in thinking that all historians should be cautious of in their individual specializations. Precisely, how their internal biases can alter their perception of events and motivation. What seems to be Cohen’s contribution to Chinese historiography is really a wider contribution to historiography as a whole.

In chapter 1 of Discovering History in China, “The Problem with ‘China’s Response to the West,’” Cohen looks at the impact-response model. Inside of this model, American historians of China viewed all significant change in China to be the result of the impact of the West. China’s role in its own history was solely in how it responded to the impact of the West. It would be excessive for Cohen to deny that the West had no impact on Chinese history at all, or that the Chinese were never motivated to action by the involvement of the West. What Cohen concludes is that much of what happened in China was either completely unrelated or only partially related to the involvement of the West. Things that fall into the grey, Cohen explains, which are either directly or indirectly shaped by Western influence, cannot be interpreted as being only a response to the West because there were a lot of internal factors to consider (15-16). Cohen uses the Taiping Rebellion and T’ung-chih restoration as case studies to his point. Some historians have interpreted both as being directly caused by the involvement of the West, but Cohen insists that in reality the rebellion was caused by internal factors, and the restoration was truly restorative, not innovative (20-22). Cohen insists that in some instances the West was an accomplice to events in China that would have happened no matter what, even if the West had never become involved (43). However, to use ahistorical reasoning to support his claim weakens the value of Cohen’s assessment. He cannot assume that Chinese history would have progressed the same, come to the same end, if the West were entirely absent. There is no need to take his interpretation to such an extreme because he has already stated that Chinese history can progress independent of Western involvement.

Next, Cohen looks at the Boxer Rebellion and uses the fact that the majority of the rebellions began in rural places removed from Western influence as proof that it had nothing to do with the West (52). Cohen already admits that the West could indirectly influence events, but he does not recognize that resentment is something uncontainable that flows from its source, and may even build up to a more volatile condition. The rebellion was too complex to eliminate causes based on small details. In the end, it would still ultimately be the internal factors that bred and fed the rebellion, but it would recognize Cohen’s own acceptance that the West can influence. Yet Cohen is successful in what he attempts to do in chapter 1: proving that the impact-response model is indeed a problem in Chinese historical interpretation. Chinese historians need to be aware that there has been lacking consciousness in the breadth of causes for change in China, as well as in the motivations that awakened the need for, and the acceleration of, change in China. Cohen makes it necessary for Chinese historians to pause in their interpretations and ask what truly inspired the event(s) in question, and to search for underlying endogenous reasons despite more apparent exogenous influences. After all, it is often the exogenous that seem the most obvious or influential by its very nature of being new and different. Historians now have to work a little harder to discover the truth. Cohen’s “corrective” to the impact-response model outlines the zones in which events of Chinese history can be placed: events that were direct consequences of the West, things influenced but not caused by the West, and things left unchanged by the West (53-54). It is the second zone that presents difficulty because it is so broad. The problem with the impact-response model is that the historians Cohen is directing his book at had been unable to distinguish slight influence from heavy impact, and Cohen’s corrective will still be plagued by that very problem. However, Cohen is only presenting problems, not trying to fix them despite his giving a loose corrective framework for the benefit of the reader. It is up to the individual historian to be aware as they interpret and self-correct their own assumptions.

Chapter 2, “Moving Beyond ‘Tradition and Modernity,”” shifts the discussion to Cohen’s second problem framework: the traditional-modernity model. The tradition-modernity model was built on the premise that China was locked in an unchanging and static condition, which the West liberated it from by bringing in Western modernity. Cohen identifies the problem in this being that China was judged against purely Western standards, and so was set up from the start to appear backwards. The model also introduced a lot of subjectivity because historians measured for themselves the change that they believed to be significant using a Western definition of modernity. Sometimes this caused historians to make unfair judgments about Chinese tradition being a barrier for progress (62, 65, 80). Cohen focuses on a small number of sources which he feels best reflect his point, and particularly dissects the writings of historian Joseph Levenson, as well as others such as Mary C. Wright and Thomas A. Metzger, though less extensively than in his treatment of Levenson. Cohen looks outside of his own imposed limits in chapter 2. Cohen defines his focus as the post-WWII era, which is ambiguous on its own. However, Cohen specifically states the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, and it is also assumed by the term post-WWII that the 1950s will naturally be a factor. Cohen repeatedly reiterates those decade periods, yet some of his sources are outside of that scope such as Gilbert Rozman’s edited volume The Modernization of China, which was published in 1981, and Thomas A. Metzger’s Escape from Predicament, published in 1977. If Cohen is going to break his own established boundaries for the sake of sources, he should not be so quick to erect them in the first place. This is a minor slight, though it detracts from the overall exactness of his critique of others. It also leaves Cohen vulnerable to the critique of peers who may assert that Cohen shapes evidence to his needs despite the soundness of his analysis.

To his benefit, Cohen’s careful reasoning again saves him from the trap of optimism; he openly admits that it is impossible for any historian to be completely culturally neutral, and he again does not frame a solution for this. Like in chapter 1, chapter 2 merely intends to illuminate a problem, and then allow every historian to make of it what they will, but hopefully with more attentiveness in their scholarly pursuits. Chapter 3, “Imperialism: Reality or Myth?,” discusses Cohen’s final problem framework. According to Cohen, historians approached imperialism from two different perspectives. The first saw imperialism as the “source of China’s problems,” a reverse of the traditional-modernity approach that saw Western intervention as necessary to progress. The effects of the Vietnam War heavily influenced this perspective because it was during the Vietnam War that Americans had to face the destructive realities of American intervention. The second perspective was that imperialism, taking a page from the traditional-modernity approach, brought about great political and intellectual changes to China, and not always for the bad (97, 125). Cohen feels that the imperialism approach is evidence of not only how bias was introduced into interpretation, but also how contemporary events caused historians to read backwards with the inevitable result of connecting the assumed cause and effect. Cohen does not deny that imperialism had a very real impact on China, but rather objects to the idea that imperialism was the “master key” to Chinese history.

The challenge Cohen presents to historians is that they must pick out which situations were truly relevant to imperialism, and then to move a step further to show how the situation was relevant (147). By treading a careful line, Cohen comes off with an analysis that is carefully discussed and that adequately presents the problem while giving shape to its reality through practice. In the fourth and final chapter, “Toward a China-Centered History of China,” Cohen presents the direction he would like to see Chinese history move. His ultimate feeling toward American historians is pessimistic because he feels that it would be impossible to rid analysis entirely of ethnocentrism. Pessimistic though it is, it is most likely a correct conclusion. However, Cohen hopes that using a China-Centered approach will lessen Western-centric interpretations (153). This is the chapter in which Cohen attempts to give a model for an actual solution, which he splits into four components: begins in China with the Chinese, breaks China up into smaller regions, looks hierarchically from the bottom of society up, and brings in methods from outside disciplines (186-187). Yet there can be some problems with Cohen’s suggestions. First, to break China into exclusive smaller parts may distort the broader picture. While in many cases a small region may stand on its own, historians should be sensitive to the fact that sometimes the broader picture must be paralleled in order to give true scope to an issue, and to connect it to larger cause factors in China. Second, historians should account for the fluidity of ideas and events through social classes, and look from the bottom up, but also the top down. The two of them should work together.

A few additional criticisms can be made toward Discovering History in China as a whole. Though the book provides historiographical lessons that can be beneficial to historians of all areas, Cohen’s attentiveness to dissecting specific works and authors of Chinese history makes the book complicated for people who are unfamiliar with the most popular and essential works in the field. Discovering History in China can be a useful tool for novice or expert, but the significance of many works Cohen discusses will be lost on the novice. Additionally, Cohen generalizes a lot based on his few sources. As a result, it is difficult to gauge just how pervasive the problems Cohen presents were. It is understandable that Cohen left out contrary examples because they would mitigate the importance of his historiographic problems, and would distort the significance of his argument. Yet not every historian was guilty of one or more of Cohen’s problem models, certainly, and in all fairness Cohen should illustrate this better. Finally, Cohen reissued the book in 2010 from its original publication in the 1980s. However and unfortunately, he did not update it with any new information. Therefore, it is impossible to know how the field has developed, whether Cohen’s problems are still at all relevant, if new problems have arisen, or if there has been progress in the field. With over 20 years spanning the original publication to the current edition, no doubt many changes have taken place. Even if only in the preface or introduction, Cohen should have discussed current trends to avoid becoming a snapshot of the past that is no longer relevant. Regardless, Cohen still has a solid place in historiography. Discovering History in China is an essential part to the whole of Chinese historiography for students and scholars who desire more precise and accurate methods in their research.
Detenta Detenta
Though this will be a tough read for non -specialists, Cohen is undoubtedly the most adventurous and insightful writer and historian to date who follows and pushes the Fairbank school of "China-first" or insider history. Forget history from the ground up, this is history from the prevailing culture as a force against western narrativism and its single European-culture perspective. Though historians suffer from a host of obfuscating issues to this day, at least Cohen leads the way in explaining what they are and offering insight into what can be done. Want to understand some of these problems? Read this and his "History in Three Keys".
Steel balls Steel balls
The book was new. I needed it for a class but the cover of the book has some black marking...
Bragis Bragis
The following review is based on the 1984 edition.

In "Discovering History in China" Cohen argues that much of the scholarship in the West that had occurred on China prior to the mid-1970's, (particularly American scholarship), had been conducted with an "ethnocentric distortion". Because the West had an impact in shaping modern China, pre-World War II (W.W. II) studies on China tended to focus on matters Western countries had a direct role in, such as the Opium Wars, missionary work, the Taiping uprising, sino-foreign trade, etc.. These studies tended to be from missionaries, diplomats, and others who had no formal training as historians.

In post-W.W. II studies of China (while the subject matter had widened) emphasis "was still to an overwhelming extent on the shaping role of the Western intrusion"(p.2). Much of what was written after W.W. II, according to Cohen, viewed the Western role in shaping modern China in a positive light. It was not until the liberalism of the late 1960's that historians began to question this purely positive look at imperialism and looked instead at ways the Western involvement in China had affected the "natural forward movement of Chinese history". However, many scholars still saw the West as the main antagonist in preventing China's 'modern development'.

Chapter one deals with the amount of influence Western nations had on events shaping China in the late 1800's. Cohen believes that the amount of influence the Western imperialist countries had on events inside China during the late 1800's was negligible overall. It was only after the Tongzhi Restoration that the Western presence in China played any significant role in shaping Chinese affairs. Even the reform efforts of 1898 - how much can be contributed to a reaction to the 'Western threat' and how much can be contributed to reactions to domestic conditions.

In the second chapter, "Moving Beyond Tradition and Modernity", Cohen takes aim at the notion of an unchanging China. Much of this section is a variant of the first chapter, where Cohen discusses the views of scholars from the 1950's and 1960's such as Joseph Levenson and John K. Fairbank. During this time the dominant view was that the concept of change or modernization in China was a product of direct contact with the West. In other words, China could not have "modernized" on its own without some kind of impetus from outside.

This concept of an unchanging China in American scholarship began to be questioned and negated with the introduction of Philip Kuhn's study "Rebellion and its Enemies in Late Imperial China"(1970). In this study, Kuhn attempts to redefine the question of Chinese modernity, moving away from a belief that change only occurred with help from the Western presence in the mid- to late 1800's to one that scrutinized domestic changes taking place in China long before the Western presence.

Much of chapter three "Imperialism: Reality or Myth?" analyzes the diatribe of James Peck, who in an article published in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (Oct. 1969, 2(1)p.59-69), argued modernization theory was a construct that explained away America's imperialistic nature. Written while Peck was a graduate student during the Vietnam War in the late 1960's, the article takes the view of the Chinese Communists, that is, everything which went wrong in China from the Opium War to the 'liberation' of 1949 was caused in large part by Western imperialism.

While reading Cohen's analysis of Peck's argument I could not help but think why was he [Cohen] giving so much attention to someone who, as A. Feuerwerker has pointed out in his own review of Cohen's book, "knew little about China" (see the Journal of Asian Studies, vol.44, no.3, May 1985; pp.579-80).

However, later in the chapter Cohen, through his use of other's scholarship, shows that all of China was not affected the same way by imperialism. The effects felt in the treaty ports and the littorial regions, where much of the Western influence was felt, was not congruent with the effects felt in the hinterland, where daily life went on much as it always had.

This leads us to the final chapter, "A China-Centered History of China". In this chapter, Cohen reviews the trends that had taken place throughout the 1970's and at the time of Cohen's writing, the nascent years of the 1980's. The evolution of American scholarship during this time was increasingly focusing on what Cohen terms, "Chinese problems set in a Chinese context" (p.154) or put another way, studying Chinese history from a Chinese perspective. This involved breaking China down into more manageable "spatial units" - (regional or provincial centered studies) while detracting from a top down approach of Chinese society and concentrating more on lower levels of Chinese society.