Life in China: Living the Big Changes
(Page 9 of 9)
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The pioneering historian and sociologist Charles Tilly, who did so much to illuminate the birth pangs of industrial modernity in Europe, wrote that the primary goal of social historians is to show how ordinary people “lived the big changes.” China’s politics will, of course, be further examined in the chapters of this book, but the stories focus primarily on social history.
The contributors sensibly steer clear of making predictions about a land that continually makes fools of prognosticators who speculate about what lies ahead. Instead, they simply tell the stories of individual Chinese Characters living through their country’s remarkable rise after centuries of war and want. Taken together, these forays into charting the social history of the present illuminate today’s China and may serve to contextualize the twists and turns the country will surely take in the future.
Excerpted from Jeffrey Wasserstrom’s Introduction to Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, edited by Angilee Shah and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, published by the University of California Press. © 2012 by The Regents of the University of California.
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