Penn State

Kate Merkel-Hess - Associate Professor of History, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

Author: Jonathan Spence

Book Description:

I went to college thinking that I would become a journalist, but taking Jonathan Spence’s class on modern China my sophomore year began to change my mind. In both his lecturing and writing Spence demonstrated to me that historians, much like journalists, could tell untold stories and by doing so inculcate in their students and readers a greater understanding of human society — cultivating both a sense of our shared humanity and an awareness of important cultural and social differences. As a result, I started to think of being a historian instead of a journalist. Emperor of China, which we read in that class, integrates the techniques of New Journalism into historical writing to provide the reader insight into one of the most important figures in modern China – the Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722), who ruled the Qing Empire for an astounding 61 years and presided over a period of stability, wealth, and growth. While I was drawn to the study of the early twentieth century, not the late seventeenth century world that Kangxi inhabited, I still draw inspiration from Spence’s creativeness, readability, and sympathy for his subject.


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U.Ed. LIB 04-64      last updated 8/10/10 wh