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History in Perspective  
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In Perspective

As the world is quickly entering an era of accelerating uncertainty, the following views written by two accomplished scholars decades ago look now more pertinent than ever before.

Patricia Buckley Ebrey
The Cambridge Illustrated History of China
Cambridge University Press

"... the story of how China came to be the huge country we know today is one full of drama.  In each period Chinese have made use of what they inherited, but also have come up with new ideas and practices as they have struggled to find meaning or peace, to impose their will or contend with opponents, to survive and thrive, to care for their families and fulfill their duties, in the process creating a society we call China."

Book first published in 1996

John King Fairbank
China: A New History
Harvard University Press

"...... Once the modern revolution in Chinese thought got under way in the 1890s, it became evident that no foreign model could fit the Chinese situation, that many models would be used but none would be adequate, and that the creative Chinese people would have to work out their salvation in their own way.  Having had a unique past, they would have their own unique future. This conclusion, unsettling to many, has now coincided with a further worldwide realization that the species Homo sapiens sapiens (as it has reassuringly itself) is itself endangered.  The twentieth century has already seen more man-made suffering, death, and assault on the environment than all previous centuries combined.  Perhaps the Chinese have finally joined the great outside world just in time to participate in its collapse.  A few observers, less pessimistic, believe that in the end only a survival capacity like that exhibited by the Chinese for three millennia can save us. By taking a fresh, newly informed look at China's long history, at its multichanneled reforms, rebellions, and revolutions and its record of admirable successes and grievous failures in the modern century, we may find the long-term trends and contemporary conditions that will shape China's future and affect our own.

Dated September 12, 1991