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Unit information: Internationalising Modern China 1850s - 1950 (Level H Special Subject) in 2018/19

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Unit name Internationalising Modern China 1850s - 1950 (Level H Special Subject)
Unit code HIST37016
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Bickers
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit explores the institution that lay at the heart of China's interaction with foreign power after 1854, examining the role of the foreign-led Chinese Maritime Customs Service down to 1949. Over 10,000 foreign nationals and 10,000 Chinese served in this state agency, which was used by successive Chinese governments to help it strengthen itself, and to renegotiate its relationship with the world beyond its domains. The overall aim in studying the Customs Service is to help us understand key issues in China's modern history, and its place in a relentlessly globalising world. The unit allows for a study of such issues as international diplomacy, technology transfer, the circulation of knowledge, imperialism and nationalism, as well as the experiences and views of individuals. The resources relating to this unit are rich and easily accessible, including memoirs, private and officials archives, Customs and other publications, newspapers, travel accounts, trade, medical, and educational reports, and visual documents.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • Developed an in depth understanding of the internationalisation of modern China
  • Become more experienced and competent in working with an increasingly specialist range of primary sources
  • Become more adept at contributing to and learning from a small-group environment
  • Acquired a firm knowledge of key issues in the history of modern Chinas foreign relations
  • Developed an advanced understanding of the literature generated by and about the Chinese Maritime Customs.

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

1 x 3500 word essay (50%) and 1 x 2 hour exam (50%)

Reading and References

Robert Bickers, The Scramble for China: Foreign devils in the Qing empire, 1832-1914 (2011)

John King Fairbank et al, The I.G. in Peking: Letters of Robert Hart (Cambridge MA, 1975)

Henrietta Harrison, The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village 1857-1942 (Stanford, 2005)

Elizabeth Sinn, Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong (Hong Kong, 2015)

O. Arne Westad, Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (2012)

Xiaoqing Ye, The Dianshizhai Pictorial Shanghai Urban Life, 1884-1898 (Ann Arbor, 2003)