Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History – Q&A with Zheng Yangwen

Posted by Rebecca Mortimer - Wednesday, 18 Apr 2018


What book in this field has inspired you the most?

The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Yes, the history of railway for example.

What did you enjoy the most about writing your book?

Writing a textbook is different as I have my readers in my mind – they are my students and those who embark on the study of modern China around the world. Bearing their needs in mind, making China interesting to them and motivating them to find out more is what drives the process.

What did you find hardest about writing your book?

Writing national history by privileging local, individual and ordinary tales – this is what makes this textbook unique as it tells mega history through the eyes and lives of ordinary or what I call ‘small people’.

Is this your first published book, or have you had others published?

No. My first single authored monograph was published in 2005 and since then I have authored-edited 8 or 9 books.

How did you feel when you saw your first published book?

Proud but also humbled as it is a small drop in the large ocean.

Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

This is because I have taught here since 2017 even though other publishers had approached me for a textbook.

Did you approach writing this book differently to any of your previous work?

Yes, because it is not a research-driven monograph but a textbook written exclusively for students.

Have you had time to think about your next research project yet? What are you working on now?

Writing this textbook (for my level one module “Modern China”) has inspired to write another for the level two module “Late Imperial China” (equally popular among students) and it has also inspired me to write a book on history of the railway in China.



Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History is available to pre-order now and publishes in May 2018.

Read a sample chapter, here.




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