HIS32550 Gender, War and Memory: Women in Late Qing and Republican China

Academic Year 2020/2021

This course is designed to allow students to gain an understanding of the key debates in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chinese history with a focus on gender, memory and the Second World War in East Asia. Starting from the position of women in Late Imperial China, we will consider how women’s bodies were used in discourses of self-strengthening and resisting imperialism during the reform movements at the end of the Qing. We will explore women’s entry into the public sphere, with new educational opportunities opening to women after the 1911 revolution, and the debates surrounding the ‘New Woman’ and ‘Modern Girl’ of the May Fourth Era. We will explore how the long-standing trope of ‘Good Wives and Wise mothers’ was deployed by different political regimes during Second-Sino Japanese war in attempts to create a ‘Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere.’ Drawing on primary sources from my own research, students will be asked to probe the disjuncture between these images of women produced by wartime states and the lived realties for women in Wartime East Asia. We will also consider how and why notorious incidents such as the Nanjing Massacre and the use of comfort women have become politicised in historical writing about the War and the continuing relevance of Gender as a lens through which the war is memorialised in East Asia today.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

• Knowledge and understanding of key debates in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chinese history and historiography.
• A critical understanding of role of ‘The West’ in East Asian history and how women’s bodies have been used by various political regimes in the process of resisting Imperialism and self-strengthening throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
• Understanding of how the Second World War in East Asia has been politicised and memorialised with a focus on gender.
• The ability to develop arguments about the way historians have understood East Asia.
• Developing skills in critical reading and historiographical analysis.
• Students will be introduced to primary source analysis, and will gain preliminary skills to evaluate both archival and oral historical sources.

Indicative Module Content:

1. Introduction: Gender in Chinese History
2. Women in Late Imperial China
3. Imperial Feminisms: Footbinding, Famine Relief and Female Education
4. The Woman Question
5. 1911 Revolution : Revolutionaries and Suffragettes
6. Reading Week
7. The May Fourth Movement and the ‘New Woman’ in East Asia
8. 'Hygienic Modernity': The Nanjing Decade and the New Life Movement
9. Gender, War and Propaganda: Women in Wartime China
10. Gender, War and Memory: Politicization and Memorialisation of the War in East Asia
11. 1949: Chinese women finally 'Liberated'?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This small group, seminar-based module is taught through weekly online lectures and weekly two-hour seminars. Background subject knowledge will be delivered in the lecture and students will be asked to prepare for the seminar by doing primary and secondary readings for each week. There will also be an assigned question for each seminar which students will be asked to consider as they do their readings. Lectures and seminar sources will include a variety of audio, visual and documentary materials to cater to students different learning needs. Seminars will include peer-to-peer and small group work as well as whole group discussion and debate. In seminars students will be invited to critically reflect on the sources, and develop their own ideas about the historiography of the debates. Students will also undertake student-led, task-based learning by preparing and delivering individual presentations based on primary source analysis in the seminars. Autonomous learning will be fostered through seminar preparation, student-led primary source analysis and debate, and the development of a 4000-word research project. This project will require students to demonstrate correct citation style, analysis of primary and secondary source material, as well as key subject knowledge and historiographical understanding, evidence of critical thinking and original argument. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Project: Semester-long research project: this is a paper of 3,500-4,000 words, based on work undertaken over the 12 weeks of the semester Week 12 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Students are expected to attend and actively participate in all seminars throughout the semester Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: A combined Presentation / written assignment, which takes the form of a 15 minute seminar presentation and 1,500 word paper. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
Repeat Within Two Trimesters
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the combined 15-minute presentation / 1,500 essay assignment will be given in writing via Brightspace. Written and oral feedback will be provided on an ongoing basis on preparatory plans and primary and secondary source bibliographies for the end-of-semester research project. Feedback on the end-of-semester research project will be given in writing via Brightspace and by appointment in one-to-one online meetings.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 09:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Wed 12:00 - 12:50