BA Film Studies and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Late Imperial China: the Great Wall and Beyond

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST20422
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course is a broad survey of China’s last two imperial dynasties – the Ming and the Qing (1400 to 1800), a most important period as it helps shaped not just modern China.  We study Ming-Qing politics, assess its socio-economic and cultural achievements; we also explore its failures that led to their decline. What makes this module unique and attractive is that it highlights Ming-Qing China’s interaction with Europe and Southeast Asia. The story of late imperial China is told in the larger context of world history, from arrival of the Jesuits to the heyday of the East India Company. This module encourages students to exploit knowledge gained from European history and invites them to join the core academic debate as to when and why China fell behind the West.


HIST20422 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes and Chinese and East Asian Studies (please check your programme structures for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas; and Chinese Studies programmes. Available to students on an Erasmus programme, subject to VSO approval.


  • to acquire a broad knowledge and understanding of late imperial China from 1400 to 1800, its achievements and failures
  • to consider the importance of Sino-European and Sino-Southeast Asia interaction through trade, diplomacy and religion
  • to examine the impact of their interaction on the Chinese polity, economy, culture and society, to a lesser extent on Europe/Britain
  • to analyse these changes in seminars, to research and write essays on their interaction and evaluate their enduring impact
  • to inform and make responsible global citizens who understands origins and complexities of today’s world

Knowledge and understanding

  • of major historical events, trends, processes and history-makers of Ming-Qing China
  • of major paradigms and methodologies relevant to the study of late imperial China
  • of globalisation from Chinese domestic, Asia-regional and European perspectives
  • of new perspectives and developments in the study of Ming-Qing China

Intellectual skills

  • ability to critically evaluate of China’s interaction on the dawn of great change that would shaped the modern world
  • ability to critically discuss China’s political, socio-economic and cultural change against a background of regional and global transformation
  • ability to critically analyse them with changes in Europe, Britain and  Northeast as well as Southeast Asia

Practical skills

  • digest learning through a combination of lectures and readings
  • articulate and discuss learning in an informed manner in class
  • navigate effectively the wide range of resources, especially online materials, available and be able to use them in seminars and essay research/writing
  • plan, research and write effective essays and long essays

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • analytical skills as the module help students gain a better understanding of early modern Europe, its complicated relations with China and the world
  • public speaking skill as the module encourages student to engage with fellow students in seminars and discussions
  • writing, argument-making and sustaining skills as a result of essay research and writing through feedback

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Late Imperial China equips students with 'mental furniture' for life and career in and beyond Britain as the world globalises and interacts more with China.
Group/team working
Oral communication
The practical knowledge and discussion skills students gained in this module on the history of imperial China, its interaction with and impact on Europe, proved to be helpful in the search for jobs.
Written communication
China knowledge has helped many students who took this module to land jobs in government institutions, media outlets, museums, NGOs, multi-national companies, law firms and financial institutions that have businesses and offices in China.

Assessment methods

Critical Analysis: 40%

Essay: 60%

Feedback methods

Written feedback and individual discussion (by appointment) for critical analysis - summative

Written feedback and individual discussion (by appointment)  for essay - summative


Recommended reading

Liam Brockey, Journey to the East: the Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007)

Zhang Yangwen, China on the Sea: how the Maritime World Shaped Modern China (Boston: Brill 2011)

Ray Huang, 1587, a Year of No Significance: the Ming Dynasty in Decline (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981)

Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994)

Peter C. Perdue, China Marches West: the Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005)

Philip Kuhn, Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990)

Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Francesca Young Kaufman Unit coordinator
Yang-Wen Zheng Unit coordinator

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