Introductory Seminar in East Asian History

Shanghai in Modern China

In 1840, before it was forcibly opened to foreign trade as a result of the Opium War, the walled city of Shanghai was not far different from many other urban centers in China. By the turn of the century, however, the old walled city had been engulfed by extensive International and French Settlements governed by non-Chinese. By 1937, on the eve of WWII, the population of Shanghai had increased by over ten-fold from that of 1840 and, in the meantime, this once unremarkable city had become not only East Asia's economic center of gravity but also one of the most vital, colorful, and important cities in the world. Shanghai, alternately praised as the symbol of a new and modernizing China and condemned as a sink of corruption, crime, and social degeneracy, had come to represent both the best and worst aspects of foreign influence, economic growth, political development, and social transformation. After the Revolution of 1949, Shanghai’s storied past played a vital role in how the central government utilized it, first, as an example of socialist development and, later, as a showcase of modern economic growth and cosmopolitanism.

HIEA 1501 is a challenging seminar designed for, and limited to first and second year students. In addition to covering the topic through weekly readings and discussion, it is also introduces students to the concerns, methods, and practices of historical inquiry. Emphasis is placed on developing the skills of critical reading, clear writing, and cogent discussion. Grades will be based on the completion of weekly reading assignments (20%), quality of participation in weekly discussions (40%), and a historiographic essay of between ten to twelve pages. The course neither assumes nor requires any previous study of Chinese history.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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