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

Rana Mitter
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 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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A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World (Making of the Modern World) + Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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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: 2 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


Breathtaking and authoritative (Graham Hutchings, former China Correspondent, Daily Telegraph)

An impressive and inventively researched book (Financial Times)

With compelling prose and insightful analysis, Rana Mitter paints a brilliant, lively portrait critical to understanding the soul of modern China (Iris Chang, New York Times best-selling author of The Rape of Nanking)

About the Author

Rana Mitter is University Lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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
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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars bought for A level history 21 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Got this to help my son with his A level history. He found it very helpful and his teacher said it was a good reference book for the subject matter.
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