Shanghai: China’s Gateway to Modernity

We have been reading chapter by chapter Bergère’s Shanghai: China’s Gateway to Modernity in the past weeks. Now you should have had established a basic understanding of (1) the history of Shanghai, (2) Shanghai’s role in shaping modern Chinese politics, economy, culture, and society, and (3) Shanghai as a cite/hub of intensified Sino-foreign exchanges. For this assignment, you are to write a 4-5 pages book review (min. 1000 words; please include the word count) to discuss the book as a whole and offer your interpretation and evaluation of the author’s argument(s).

In your book review, you are expected to (a) offer a summary of what this book is about/what kind of Shanghai history has been told in this book, (b) identify what you think as the overarching argument of this book, (c) explain (using a few examples) how the author make that argument, and (d) evaluate, from your perspective, whether that’s a sound argument and why.

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This is a very long and complex book, and even the “big picture” the author presents in it is a complicated one. You don’t need to try to cover everything you think are important in this short book review. Focus on one (or two) argument(s) most compelling, intriguing, or problematic to you. To help you grasp the “big picture,” here are some guiding questions you can ask yourself when preparing your book review:

Shanghai is what kinds gateway(s) to what kind(s) modernity?
What are the roles people in Shanghai (Chinese and foreign) played in shaping the city and beyond? Who (the Chinese or the foreigners) took the lead?
In modern Chinese (or world history), was Shanghai an exception? A model? A pioneer? A symbol of progress or imperialist oppression? A safe haven? A free port? Or the embodiment of everything evil in capitalist system?
How is the history of Shanghai and its ups and downs reflect how the Chinese government’s and society’s attitude toward (western) modernity?
And what’s the author’s take on these questions?

Answers to the above questions will help you structure your thoughts, and, hopefully, your thesis. And you need to argue for your thesis in your paper by reasoning with evidence and presenting the evidences to support your argument. The Pocket Guide also has a very nice instruction helping you evaluate secondary sources. Check that out. (pp. 18-20)


Your paper should be type in 12-point font and formatted double-spaced with one-inch margins. They should be in WORD or PDF files and submitted electronically to the designated folders in Canvas’s “Assignment” section.

Please remember to acknowledge your sources and references properly by using the University of Chicago citation style throughout the paper (following the History Department policy). All citations have to conform. Here is the guide: (Links to an external site.).

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