Customer Reviews: China in World History (New Oxford World History)
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on October 15, 2010
Paul Ropp provides a superb introduction to the subject--informative, readable, and comprehensive. In fact, it's the best brief account of China's expansive history, from ancient dynasties to the democratic uprising in 1989, to the present. My only regret is that it wasn't available when I first went there to teach twenty-five years ago. "China in World History'" is ideal for students, the general reader, as well as a quick review for teachers and scholars. It reflects the author's broad and deep experience of Chinese culture, his knowledge of its art and literature, as well as the essential events that have shaped its political history. Selected illustrations and photographs, as well as an attractive format, contribute to the overall achievement of the book.

Michael D. True
Worcester, MA
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on February 12, 2011
Most of us living in North America have very little knowledge of China, its history, culture and politics. After a short but extremely interesting trip to Beijing I wanted to gain more understanding of China by learning about some of the background to what I had seen. This very fine book did a wonderful job at doing that. Basic Chinese history and culture was clearly presented and the ideas easy to follow. With China appearing so prominently in world economics and politics these days, the final chapter on the late period beginning in 1949 was extremely helpful. I certainly do recommend this book to anyone wanting a brief introduction to China and its people.
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on January 27, 2015
I bought the following 3 histories of China from Amazon over the last month or so:
China in World History
The Dynasties of China: A History
China: A History (Volumes 1 & 2)

This book, China in World History is my favorite. I'd recommend it to anyone over the other two.

The Dynasties of China was my favorite until I bought this one.

China: A History wasn't written well enough for me to read. I did read a number of pages in it (all through both volumes), and they were equally difficult to "digest", by which I mean it was VERY hard to remember anything on any page because important facts and ideas were mixed in with a LOT of unimportant facts and ideas. The author is obviously an expert on Chinese History, but he's more of a college professor than a writer. Trying to read his volumes was very frustrating because I bought them in order to learn more in-depth Chinese history.
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on November 2, 2015
I really enjoyed this book since it met my expectations in a history book: it is rigorous, but at the same time brief, concise and fluid. The history of China, in particular the ancient period is full of magic. We all have plenty of images from movies or theatre based on it, but reality is even more vivid. From now on, I have another nice mixture of China in my mind thanks to this book.
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on January 19, 2016
Far too few Americans are familiar with even the outlines of China’s 3,500-year history. We may have learned a few isolated facts — for instance, that gunpowder, paper money, and printing were all invented in China — but we’re largely unaware of the intellectual and political currents that form a backdrop for Chinese behavior to the present day. Our country is paying the price of that ignorance in the difficulty we face in dealing with China as a reemerging world power.

Chinese history in a nutshell

In China in World History, Paul S. Ropp set out to condense the history of the world’s largest nation within less than 200 pages. At the outset, he makes his case: “An identifiable and sophisticated Chinese culture emerged by 1500 bce and has shown remarkable continuity in its language, cultural values, and social and political organization over the past three and a half millennia.” While this may be the view from 30,000 feet, and no doubt that judgment applies to China’s still-backward rural areas, I strongly suspect that the perspective of the hundreds of millions of Chinese who live in cities might well be different. It’s difficult to see all that continuity in the soaring highrises of China’s newly built cities and their Westernized youth culture.

Undoubtedly, China faces the world with critical advantages: a written language that spans numerous mutually unintelligible languages and dialects; an acceptance of “the world and human existence as facts of life that needed no supernatural explanation or divine creator;” and a contiguous landmass advantageously situated to command much of the Asian continent. Together, these facts help account for the reality that, except for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, China was the world’s most advanced and prosperous nation throughout its 3,500-year history.

It’s too easy for Westerners to lose sight of that fact. Only with the advent of the Industrial Revolution late in the eighteenth century did the tables turn. Ropp calls it “a cruel coincidence of history that Qing dynasty decline coincided precisely” with the surge in wealth and power that shifted to the West. In other words, had its leadership not been so corrupt and incompetent, even during the past two centuries China might well have maintained its planetary leadership.

“One damn dynasty after another”

According to its editors, the New Oxford World History series “presents local histories in a global context and gives an overview of world events seen through the eyes of ordinary people.” Disappointingly, Paul S. Ropp’s entry in the series, China in World History, fails to meet this standard. Although the author ventures into social history on occasion, and he pays due diligence to the intellectual and religious currents in the country’s history, most of the book is a recitation of one damn dynasty after another. We’re treated to a seemingly endless list of emperors, broken from time to time with the names of scholars or religious leaders, with “ordinary people” nowhere to be found.

About the author

Paul S. Ropp retired from the faculty of Clark University in 2011. He is a specialist in Chinese history.
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on August 17, 2012
The book provides a quick overview of China's history for starters. I missed the underlying political thought and economic facts that made China such a great Nation. And what explains its sudden backwardness and retirement from the world stage. Might it happen again if the same underlyng backward forces come back? Or even worse, are those underlyng backward forces inherent to their culture? I did not get answers or clues to these questions in this book. A good book, nevertheless.
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on May 3, 2013
Really interesting and an amazing condensation of 3,000 years of history. Although it is hard to follow all the rulers it is a great story of one of the world's greatest countries. Insight into the culture and its many trends.
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on December 20, 2014
Great book that serves as an overview primer before a more in-depth study. Current history from the fall of the Qing Dynasty (essential the 19th century) and the transition to modern times in China is more detailed and very helpful. Also, an aim of the book series that contains this book is to include references to concurrent world events - "while that was happening in China this was happening in the West"... etc.

I also like Paul Ropp's writing style which was not only efficient and direct, but easy to read.
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on March 24, 2013
This book was just right! I'm going to China on vacation in two months and I wanted to learn more about its history and
culture. This book did just that; in addition to history, I gained insight into China's economy, topography, marriage practices and treatment of women, and more. A great introduction!

Update...I just read the book again! With 3 weeks to go before my trip to China, I wanted to read this book a second time, and it was worth it. I loved the description of the carvings in the caves, the intrigues in the numerous imperial courts, the painful description of foot-binding, and the tenuous hold by the Communist Party on today's China. An excellent book!!!

Update...My trip to China was amazing! I'm so glad I had read the book and gained some knowledge and insight into China's history and culture!
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on October 30, 2013
Very concise for an history of China but focuses on what is really important: the history of ideas!
The continuity of the battle for ideas , as described in the book, is amazing; from the first emperor to the Communist party of today!
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