An Intellectual History of Modern China

By Cheek, Timothy | The China Journal, January 2004 | Go to article overview
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An Intellectual History of Modern China


Cheek, Timothy, The China Journal


An Intellectual History of Modern China, edited by Merle Goldman and Leo Ou-Fan Lee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. vii + 607 pp. £21.95/US$30/A$75.00 (paperback).

This volume brings together essays relating to modern Chinese intellectual history culled from Volumes 12, 13, 14 and 15 of The Cambridge History of China. It also contains a thoughtful introduction by the editors and a useful survey of intellectuals and the state in the post-Mao period by Merle Goldman. The essays represent the best in Western scholarship on modern Chinese intellectual history, and include a chapter by Charlotte Furth on the change in thinking among Chinese elites from 1895-1920, the venerable Benjamin Schwartz on the May Fourth period, Leo Ou-Fan Lee with two chapters on literary trends from 1895-1949, Stuart Schram with two chapters on Mao up to the Chairman's death in 1976, and two chapters (including a newly commissioned one) by Goldman on intellectuals and the Party-state from the late 1950s to 2000. Together, these provide some 500 pages of excellent scholarship on modern Chinese intellectual history as perceived by Western scholars in the early 1980s.

Intellectual history, as a discipline, has been in dispute for a long time. This book makes a spirited defense of its usefulness as a form of knowledge about China. Lee and Goldman's thoughtful introduction invokes the challenge posed by Benjamin Schwartz in 1971: that intellectual history should "involve the totality of conscious life-the life of the intellect, the emotions, the imagination, and every variety of sensibility", that it should be concerned "with human consciousness as related to the historical situations in which we find ourselves" (p.

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