Coming to Terms with Civil War in Nineteenth-Century Century China
Stanford University Press 2013
Tobie Meyer-Fong‘s beautifully written and masterfully argued new book explores the remains (in many senses and registers, both literal and figurative) of the Taiping civil war in nineteenth-century China. Often known as the “Taiping Rebellion” in English, the war is most often narrated as the story of a visionary (Hong Xiuchuan) or the movement he inspired. What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford University Press, 2013) transforms how we understand a civil war that deeply marked the physical and textual landscapes of modern China. In a series of chapters that move us through the texts and bodies (living, dead, and commemorated) of the war, Meyer-Fong simultaneously introduces readers to a world of fascinating source materials into which these bodies are inscribed. Thus a moving and incisive narrative also becomes a historiographical lesson on the significance of bringing a subtle and nuanced reading of gazetteers, martyrologies, newspapers, diaries, and memoirs to bear on understanding the everyday experiences of life, death, and violence in modern China. It is a book not to be missed, and it will change the way we understand and teach this formative period of nineteenth-century history.
For Meyer-Fong’s recent article in Frontiers of History in China, see Tobie Meyer-Fong, “Urban Space and Civil War: Hefei, 1853-1854,” Frontiers of History in China 8.4 (2013): 469-492.