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A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World (Making of the Modern World) [Paperback]

Rana Mitter
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 May 2005 Making of the Modern World
China is now poised to take a key role on the world stage, but in the early twentieth century the situation could not have been more different. Rana Mitter goes back to this pivotal moment in Chinese history to uncover the origins of the painful transition from a premodern past into a modern world.
By the 1920s the seemingly civilized world shaped over the last two thousand years by the legacy of the great philosopher Confucius was falling apart in the face of western imperialism and internal warfare. Chinese cities still bore the imprints of its ancient past with narrow, lanes and temples to long-worshipped gods, but these were starting to change with the influx of foreign traders, teachers, and missionaries, all eager to shape China's ancient past into a modern present.
Mitter takes us through the resulting social turmoil and political promise, the devastating war against Japan in the 1940s, Communism and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and the new era of hope in the 1980s ended by the Tian'anmen uprising. He reveals the impetus behind the dramatic changes in Chinese culture and politics as being China's "New Culture" - a strain of thought which celebrated youth, individualism, and the heady mixture of strange and seductive new cultures from places as far apart as America, India, and Japan.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (26 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019280605X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806055
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.9 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Rana Mitter's A Biiter Revolution is an ambitious and thoughtful study of China in the 20th century through the light of the modernising, anti-foreigner movement known as the May 4th movement, which draws illuminating parallels between China and Japan, Weimar Germany and much else."--History Today "A fascinating look at a pivotal time in the formation of the culture of modern China.... What is most intriguing about Mitters account is not what was lost in the dark decades that followed, but how much endured."--Publishers Weekly"Fresh and interesting."--Library Journal"In his impressive and inventively researched book, Rana Mitter uses the May Fourth movement as a theme around which to explore China's bitter 20th century, with its repeated upheavals, foreign invasion and the death of more than 100 million people from man-made and natural disasters. He brings alive the promise felt by the intellectuals, journalists, writers and entrepreneurs who subscribed to the movement."--Financial Times

About the Author

Rana Mitter is Lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St. Cross College. In addition to many books and journal articles, Mitter has contributed to documentaries on the History Channel and is involved in a forthcoming documentary on Kublai Khan.

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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars China from 1919 to the 21st Century. 31 Jan 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a well written and well researched book by the young university lecturer Rana Mitter at Oxford. He is also the author of at least two other books on China. The author attempts to tell us the 20th century story of China's political awakening by tracing many of the historical figures and writers to the small number of universities primarily in Beijing and Shanghai and the demonstrations of May 1919 in Beijing.
The book starts around the time of the May 4, 1919 demonstrations or what the author calls the first Tian'anmen Square (gate) demonstrations. The small number of protestors served as a touch stone or reference to future generations of Chinese as the century unfolded. In summary that group wanted to free China of its past ties to Confucianism and replace it with science and democracy. The author tells us the story of the development of China from that date and we read about a general "awakening" and the recent history of modern China. At the time of the 1919 demonstrations China was fragmented politically and had only 28,000 university students. Although the Nationalists had seized power, it lacked its own central authority and unifying government and was dominated by war lords and by colonial powers, the latter at its major seaports. The author believes that the students from the 1919 era and their contemporaries or those that followed in the decade after - the 1920s - set in motion the ideas, the political philosophies, and provided the leaders that changed China into a more modern state.
The modernization of China sharply lagged behind its Asian neighbor Japan, who started to modernize in the early 1850's building steel plants, railways, shipyards, and universities, in a unified effort among banks, the government including the military, and industry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Revolution 11 Aug 2011
By ricky
Format:Paperback
I'll start by saying that this is an excellant book for A-level and university students, or any reader interested in modern Chinese history, which can often seem a bewilderingly vast and impenetrable topic. It is very accessible, being concise and clear without leaving yet providing enough historical detail so that the reader does not feel lost in the era, while concepts alien to the reader are patiently, though not patronisingly, explained to the reader and necessarily incorporated into the narrative.

Though the starting point is 1919, a cursory narrative of the previous centuries is provided so that the reader has some grounding to the main topic, the 'modernity' movement that stemmed from a centuries vast, static, heavily stratified confucian society confronting imperialism and industrialisation from Western Nations and Japan. In this Mitter succeeds in avoiding presenting Chinese interpretations of 'modernity' as merely emulations of the West, instead as an indigenous reformulation and implementation of what it meant to be modern in the context of territorial encroachment by Japan and Britain.

Furthermore Mitter effectively melds historiographic and narrative detail, for instance in reputing the Communist Party's history that Communism was the inevitable outcome of early revolutionary movements which provides a valuable critical analysis when studying the period.

Additionally the tragedies and tribulations are explained without being obscured by mawkishness or the incomprehension of its horrors, the strong narrative coming through at each point to give causation to each aspect of the great economic, social and cultural changes of the era.

Overall an invaluable book
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bitter Revolution 13 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Mitter gives a thorough account of the influence of the May 4th movement on the political development of China in the twentieth century. He illustrates this with accounts of some of the principal players and their roles in the major dramas, or tragedies, to sweep across China.
However, although Mitter provides detail and a scholarly approach I feel the portraits he paints lack something of the human elements that bring historical characters to life.
Apart from this minor failing 'A Bitter Revolution' is a very enlightening read.
I would recommend this book to readers with some prior knowledge about post 1911 China.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent book for A-level students 24 Oct 2005
By Jack
Format:Hardcover
I am using this book as my principle source for my A-level history coursework on the Cultural Revolution, and strongly recommend it to anyone of a similar standard - here is an historian who can actually write flowing prose as well as tackle many of the difficult issues at the heart of this period!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Revolution 13 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Mitter gives a thorough account of the influence of the May 4th movement on the political development of China in the twentieth century. He illustrates this with accounts of some of the principal players and their roles in the major dramas, or tragedies, to sweep across China.
However, although Mitter provides detail and a scholarly approach I feel the portraits he paints lack something of the human elements that bring historical characters to life.
Apart from this minor failing 'A Bitter Revolution' is a very enlightening read.
I would recommend this book to readers with some prior knowledge about post 1911 China.
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