Wu Han, Historian

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Overview

This biography spotlights the life of a key Chinese intellectual, Wu Han, well known in China as a major twentieth-century historian and democratic political figure. World attention was drawn to Wu in the mid-1960s as the first of Mao Zedong's targets in the Cultural Revolution. The biography locates Wu in the rapid changes in the social and political environment of his times, from the early years of the twentieth century until his death in prison in 1969. With Wu Han's life as the focus, the narrative deals with the momentous changes in Chinese society and government during the last century. Mazur bases the biographical account on extensive interviewing in China, and penetrates a great deal deeper than the conventional conception of the shift from Nationalist to Communist regimes in the PRC. The complex life of Wu Han is of interest to specialist and non-specialist readers alike, both because of the broad relevance of the historical and political issues he and those around him confronted in the context of the times in China and because of the direct narrative biographical style revealing the conflicts and depth in the human situation. Mazur relates Wu Han's life to the momentous changes and conflicts surging through Chinese society, with special emphasis on the complex role intellectuals have played during the course of change.

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Editorial Reviews

Edward Farmer
While it takes the form of an individual's biography this work treats the reader to a guided tour of Chinese history from the May Fourth Movement in the second decade of the twentieth century to the early post-Mao era in the 1980s. All along the way one sees the relationships between individual intellectuals, institutions, movements, and political events. Ideas, beliefs, and attitudes are contextualized in a rich fabric of personal relationships and changing locales and environments. For anyone who knows anything about the works of Chinese society this book offers innumerable rewarding insights into the way networking and personal politics worked in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
January 2010 The China Journal
Mazur has tapped a wide range of sources and conducted extensive interviews to provide a vivid biography which captures Wu's life and times and makes riveting reading. It is at its best in describing Wu the historian, and will be widely read by scholars of 20th- century China.
American Historical Review, April 2010 - Vera Schwarcz
In this well-researched and well-written intellectual biography, Mary G. Mazur highlights a question that goes far beyond modern Chinese intellectual history:how does a historian balance his or her allegiance to truth about the past with a passion for social action in the present?....This study evokes the quest for historical veracity and its tragic compromise in times of social revolution with compassion as well as a critical eye....Mazur depicts Wu Han's journey from academic historian to public official with detail and narrative verve.... She is able to weave into the life of this one historian many of the larger concerns with autonomy, emancipation, and revolution that have animated Chinese intellectuals from 1919 to the present.
Pacific Affairs, June 2010 - John Israel
The resulting biography is a powerful argument for "lifelong learning."....Her thoughtful and meticulously researched work, drawing imaginatively upon both oral and written sources, enables us to understand a public intellectual in the context of a traumatic era.
June 2010 Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
One can say that Mazur has achieved her goal of depicting Wu as he actually lived....Mazur allows us to "see" Wu Han in action, as well as in writing....This book is recommended for both public and university libraries, and especially to readers who need a detailed knowledge of modern Chinese intellectual history.
Joseph Fewsmith
Mazur's carefully researched biography of Wu Han is more than a study of an individual; it is really an intellectual biography of twentieth-century China itself—from Wu Han's initial bookwormish avoidance of politics, to his politicization, to his increasing involvement in United Front activities, and, finally, his purge for writing 'Hai Rui Dismissed from Office.' Wu Han, Historian will be widely read by anyone seeking an understanding of China's revolutionary century.
June 2010 China Quarterly
Wu Han, Historian, is the result of many years of dedicated and meticulous study of a key figure in the intellectual history of modern China. Not only does this important book examine the personal, social, and historical contexts that produced a man with 20th-century Chinese intellectuals….Most importantly, this learned study emphasizes the crucial, inevitable, and often fatal link between the study of history in modern Chinese society and its political culture. This book is a significant contribution to the field of modern Chinese history, culture, and society. It is a well-written book without jargon. It will be a valuable source to scholars and students of Chinese literature, history, political science and intellectual history.
July 2010 China Information
After many years of preparation and the publication of a Chinese language version of the book, Mary Mazur's biography of Wu Han (1909-69) has finally come out in English. The book places prominent historian Wu Han into the stream of 20th- century Chinese history providing us with a mostly well-researched, thoughtful, and highly informative account of an individual going through the twists and turns of his times. The book strikes a good balance between narrating the history as such and focusing on the individual history of Wu Han. It should definitely be on the reading list of undergraduate students specializing in Chinese history.
Edward L. Farmer
While it takes the form of an individual's biography this work treats the reader to a guided tour of Chinese history from the May Fourth Movement in the second decade of the twentieth century to the early post-Mao era in the 1980s. All along the way one sees the relationships between individual intellectuals, institutions, movements, and political events. Ideas, beliefs, and attitudes are contextualized in a rich fabric of personal relationships and changing locales and environments. For anyone who knows anything about the works of Chinese society this book offers innumerable rewarding insights into the way networking and personal politics worked in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
June 2010 The China Quarterly
Wu Han, Historian, is the result of many years of dedicated and meticulous study of a key figure in the intellectual history of modern China. Not only does this important book examine the personal, social, and historical contexts that produced a man with 20th-century Chinese intellectuals….Most importantly, this learned study emphasizes the crucial, inevitable, and often fatal link between the study of history in modern Chinese society and its political culture. This book is a significant contribution to the field of modern Chinese history, culture, and society. It is a well-written book without jargon. It will be a valuable source to scholars and students of Chinese literature, history, political science and intellectual history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739124567
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 10/28/2008
  • Pages: 530
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary G. Mazur is an independent scholar. She received her Ph.D. in Chinese history from the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 1. A "Rustic" Talent Awakens to His Times Chapter 3 2. Choosing His Own Road Chapter 4 3. Commitment to Ming History Chapter 5 4. Writing the "New History" Chapter 6 5. Waves from May Fourth Chapter 7 6. Social History for the Present Chapter 8 7. Wartime University: From History to Politics Chapter 9 8. Academics and Activism Chapter 10 9. Historian as Radical Chapter 11 10. Toward a New China: A Decision Made Chapter 12 11. Founding New China: Changing a Life Chapter 13 12. The Last Chapter: From Politics to History

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