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Study information

China in the World, 1500-1840

Module titleChina in the World, 1500-1840
Module codeHIH2185A
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Hao Gao (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module offers an opportunity to explore China and its place in the world from 1500 to the outbreak of the Opium War. China’s engagement with the outside world has traditionally been described as hostile to interaction and innovation, xenophobic and isolationist. This module encourages you to challenge these stereotypes. It shows that, well before the British ‘opened up’ China in the 1840s, China had encountered the wider world both within and beyond its borders. Since the sixteenth century, economic, technological, and military expansion brought China increasingly into a wide-ranging network of commercial, intellectual and cultural contacts that linked it with the outside world. You do not need prior knowledge of Chinese history to complete this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to:

  • Introduce China’s dynamic engagement with the wider world in the early processes of global interconnectedness
  • Develop your skills in researching, interpreting, and analysing both primary and secondary material, and in reporting on your work
  • Explore a new area of history, and help you to develop the depth of understanding you will require to study more specialised areas of history

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of the key developments in the history of China’s engagement with the world in the period 1500 to 1840
  • 2. Critically evaluate the key political, economic, social and cultural trends relating to China’s engagement with the wider world in the period 1500 to 1840
  • 3. Summarise and evaluate different historical perspectives relating to China’s engagement with the wider world in the period 1500 to 1840

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Analyse the key developments in a complex historical environment
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to handle profoundly different approaches to history in a deeply contested area
  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to understand and deploy complex historical terminology in a comprehensible manner

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Select, organise and analyse material for written work and oral presentations of different prescribed lengths and formats.
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally.
  • 9. Present an argument in a written form in a clear and organised manner, with appropriate use of correct English
  • 10. Through essay development process, demonstrate ability to reflect critically on your own work, to respond constructively to feedback, and to implement suggestions and improve work on this basis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Ming China
  • Zheng He’s voyages
  • Matteo Ricci and Catholic missionaries in Ming China
  • The rise of the Qing
  • China and western technology under the Kangxi emperor
  • The Rites Controversy
  • Population growth, environmental change, and rebellions
  • British missions in China
  • The East India Company in China
  • The Napier incident 1834
  • The causes of the Opium War

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1111 x 1-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2-hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1111 x 1-hour workshops
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment proposal1000 words or equivalent1-8 (oral), 1-7, 9-10 (written)Oral and/or written, as appropriate

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation3030 minute live, group presentation, + supporting materials; also evidenced by reflective coversheet1-8Written
Written assignment703000 words1-7, 9-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentation750-word-equivalent recorded presentation with other materials as standard; if not possible, then 750-word script for presentation with other materials as standard1-8Referral/Deferral period
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3000-word written assignment, as in the original assessment, but replaces participation in the group presentation with an individual presentation equivalent to an individual’s contribution, to be recorded and submitted with all supporting materials as for the original assessment; failing this, students should submit a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation (750 words) along with all supporting materials as for the original assessment.

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Elliott, Mark C., Emperor Qianlong: Son of Heaven, Man of the World (New York, 2009).
  • Gregory, John S., The West and China since 1500 (Basingstoke, 2003).
  • Mungello, D. E., The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800 (Oxford, 2006).
  • Naquin, Susan and Rawski, Evelyn S., Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, CT, 1987).
  • Perdue, Peter C., China Marches the West: the Qing conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge, MA, 2005).
  • Pomeranz, Kenneth, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the making of the modern world economy (Princeton, 2000).
  • Waley-Cohen, Joanna, The Sextants of Beijing: global currents in Chinese history (New York, 1999).
  • Wills, John E. Jr. (ed.), China and Maritime Europe, 1500-1800: trade, settlement, diplomacy, and missions (Cambridge, 2011).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

China, global history, China in the world, imperial history, globalisation

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date