The purpose of this course is to summarize new directions in Chinese history and social science produced by the creation and analysis of big historical datasets based on newly opened Chinese archival holdings, and to organize this knowledge in a framework that encourages learning about China in comparative perspective. Our course demonstrates how a new scholarship of discovery is redefining what is singular about modern China and modern Chinese history. Current understandings of human history and social theory are based largely on Western experience or on non-Western experience seen through a Western lens. This course offers alternative perspectives derived from Chinese experience over the last three centuries. We present specific case studies of this new scholarship of discovery divided into two stand-alone parts, which means that students can take any part without prior or subsequent attendance of the other part. Part 1 (this course) focuses on comparative inequality and opportunity and addresses two related questions ‘Who rises to the top?’ and ‘Who gets what?’. Part 2 (https://www.coursera.org/learn/understanding-china-history-part-2) turns to an arguably even more important question ‘Who are we?’ as seen through the framework of comparative population behavior - mortality, marriage, and reproduction – and their interaction with economic conditions and human values. We do so because mortality and reproduction are fundamental and universal, because they differ historically just as radically between China and the West as patterns of inequality and opportunity, and because these differences demonstrate the mutability of human behavior and values. Course Overview video: https://youtu.be/dzUPRyJ4ETk
- Week 1 - Orientation and Module 1: Social Structure and Education in Late Imperial China
Before you start with the content for Module 1, please watch the Course Overview, review the Assignments and Grading page, and introduce yourself to other learners who will be studying this course with you.
- Week 2 - Module 2: Education and Social Mobility in Contemporary China
- Week 3 - Module 3: Social Mobility and Wealth Distribution in Late Imperial and Contemporary China
- Week 4 - Module 4: Wealth Distribution and Regime Change in Twentieth Century China
- Week 5 - Final Exam and Farewell
Now is time to test your understanding on the entire course. Take the final exam and complete the post-course survey. Your valuable feedback will certainly help us improve future iterations of the course.
James Z. Lee
Dean and Chair Professor of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences