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Book recommendation - C20 Chinese history?


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Hey, y'all,


What is a good, introductory book on twentieth-century Chinese history? I asked a couple people in my department and got a list of, like, thirty bricks. I'd love to, but, you know.


I am interested in learning about primarily post-WW2/PRC era. Undergrad textbook-type stuff is not preferable, but is okay. I'd love something that centers on social and/or cultural history but has enough context for orientation for a complete beginner, if that's possible. (If not, bring on the politics!)


I stress again "beginner." Pretty much everything I know about Chinese history involves Mongols or Jesuits.



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Jonathan Spence's The Search for Modern China is the size of two bricks, and goes from late Ming to the 1990s. In my opinion, it is a wonderfully written overview of modern Chinese history, providing historical contextualization for the events of the 20th century. 


Disclaimer: I read Lieberthal's Governing China in an undergrad course, but I think it's a great introduction to the political history of the PRC.

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I concur that Spence's work is the seminal introduction; hence its "brick" status.


If you're looking for background on the Qing, I'd recommend William Rowe's "China's Last Dynasty."


Re: Lieberthal's book, I'm not sure if there's a more recent revised edition, but the first edition was published in 1995 and second in 2004. I'd imagine quite a bit has changed in the last two decades.


In addition to these, I'd also recommend Jeffrey Wasserstrom's "China in the 21st Century What Everyone Needs to Know." It's a short read which answers all the basic questions you need to know to be familiar with China's recent history.

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