An Empire Across Three Continents

Chapter 3 


The Early Empire

  • The Roman empire was spread over a vast region. 
  • It spread across three continents— Europe, West Asia and North Africa.
  • The people of the Roman empire spoke many languages. 
  • Officially, Latin and Greek languages were patronised by the Romans.
  • The Roman empire was founded by Augustus who ruled between 27 BCE to 14 CE and brought to an end the chaotic conditions prevailing in the empire.
  • During Augustus’ reign, the Roman empire had made unprecedented growth in the field of literature. He gave a new look to the Roman army which played an important role in expanding the Roman empire.
  • The economic reforms introduced by Augusts, not only made the people of the Roman empire prosperous but also helped in strengthening the very foundation of the empire.
  • Augustus appointed Tiberius his successor who ruled from 14 to 37 CE.
  • Trojan was a famous Roman emperor who ruled from 98 to 117 CE. He made an immense contribution to expanding the frontier of the Roman empire.

The Third-Century Crisis

  • The first and the second centuries were known for a period of peace, prosperity and economic expansion but the third century brought the first major signs of internal strain.
  • Shapur I, the Iranian ruler had eradicated the Roman army and even captured the eastern capital of Antioch.
  • At the same time, a whole series of Germanic tribes began to move against the Rhine and Danube frontiers, and the entire period saw repeated invasions of a whole line of provinces that stretched from the Black Sea to the Alps and Southern Germany.


Gender, Literacy, Culture

  • In Roman society, there was the system of the nuclear family. The family was used to be patriarchal in nature. The literacy rate was casual. The cultural diversity of the empire was reflected in many ways.
  • There were some regional languages spoken as Aramaic in the Near East, Coptic was spoken in Egypt, Punic and Berber in North Africa, Celtic in Spain and the north-west.
  • The empire had a significant economic infrastructure of harbours, mines, quarries, brickyards, olive oil factories, etc. Production was traded and consumed in huge quantities, and they came mainly from Spain.
  • The Roman people were polytheists and used to worship several gods and goddesses. Their popular deities were Jupiter, Mars, Juno, Minerva and Isis.
  • One of the most important religious sects of the Roman empire was Mithraism. The other popular sect ‘Judaism’ was worshipped by Jehova. Judaism considered Jehova as the creator of the universe.

Controlling Workers

  • Slavery was a tradition in the Mediterranean and in the near east, as warfare became less widespread. 
  • With the establishment of peace in the first century, the supply of slaves tended to decline and the users of slave labour had to turn either to slave breeding.
  • The position of the slave in the Roman empire was very miserable. They were forced to work on the estate for 10 to 18 hours a day.
  • The late Roman aristocracy was extremely wealthy but not more powerful than the military leaders who came almost entirely from non-aristocratic backgrounds. The middle class was made of a large mass of persons connected with grand service in the bureaucracy and also with prosperous merchants and farmers in the eastern provinces.

Economic Expansion

  • The monetary system of the empire broke with the silver-based currencies of the first three centuries. 
  • The late Roman bureaucracy, both the higher and middle echelons, was a comparatively affluent group because it drew the bulk of its salary in gold and invested much of this in buying up assets like land.
  • The large expansion of Roman territory was in a less advanced state. Transhumance was spread in the countryside of Numidia. 
  • These pastoral and semi-nomadic communities were often on the move, carrying their oven-shaped huts (called mapalia). 
  • As Roman estates expanded in North Africa, the pastures of those communities were hugely reduced and their movements more tightly regulated. 
  • Even in Spain the north was much less developed, and inhabited largely by a Celtic-speaking peasantry that lived in hilltop villages called castella.
  • Emperor Constantine decided to make Christianity the official religion in the fourth century and Emperor Diocletian (284-305) fortified the frontiers, reorganized provincial boundaries, and separated civilian from military functions, granting greater autonomy to the military commanders.
  • The traditional religious culture of the classical world, both Greek and Roman, had been polytheist.
  • The Visigoths in Spain was destroyed by the Arabs between 711 to 720, that of the Franks in Gaul (c.511-687) and that of the Lombards in Italy (568-774). 
  • These kingdoms foreshadowed the beginning of a different kind of world that is usually called ‘medieval’.
  • Roman and Sasanian empires had fallen to the Arabs in a series of stunning confrontations. 
  • Those conquests, extended up to Spain, Sind and Central Asia, began in fact with the subjection of the Arab tribes by the emerging Islamic state.

The Three Orders

Chapter 6

  • Western European society was divided into three orders between the period of the ninth and sixteenth centuries.
  • The three orders of western society include:
  • The Clergy
  • The Nobility and
  • The Peasantry.
  • Clergy enjoyed special status. They were exempted from paying taxes.
  • The nobility also enjoyed a respectable position in society. They were appointed to higher posts in administration, army and the church. 
  • They were also exempted from paying certain taxes.
  • The peasantry had to pay heavy taxes.
  • They had to work very hard to meet both ends.
  • The most important characteristics of the middle age Western European society was the emergence of feudalism.
  • Two sections of the third-order were:
  • Free Peasants
  • Free peasants had to deposit a fixed land revenue to the lords.
  • Most of the Western European society belonged to the serfs. A lot of restrictions were imposed on them while the peasants were free from such restrictions.
  • Serfs were denied to offer prayers in the church. They were ill-treated and forced to work nearly 12 to 16 hours a day.
  • Feudalism is a German word. It stands for land or an estate. It was regarded as the main pillar of Medieval European society.
  • Under feudalism, lords were granted their land in exchange for military services and personal loyalty.
  • Feudalism originated in France. Later on, it spread over many other countries of Europe like England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, etc.
  • The church played a major role in influencing Medieval European society.
  • Pope was the supreme authority in the church’s institution.
  • Some of the famous towns that came into prominence were Venice, Florence, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Milan, Amsterdam, etc.
  • The word ‘monastery’ is derived from the Greek word ‘monos’ that means someone who lives alone.
  • The drawbacks of the barter system were solved by the use of money.
  • Benedict Monastery was established in 529 CE in Italy. St. Benedict laid the foundation of this monastery.
  • The decline of feudalism in the 16 century paved the way for the rise of the nation-state in Europe. French, German and Russian Revolutions occurred in 1789, 1848 and 1917 CE respectively. These revolutions inspired the people of the world also and gave a new way to the world.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Feudal system




  • Feudal system has classified the duties of various classes in the society on the basis of Hierarchies and land owners.
  • The Feudal system has installed new traditions like “Investiture” and “Homage”.
  • The human rights of the people are followed in this system.
  • System encouraged opportunities for creative output in the field of literature in England, France and Germany.
  • System helped in the emergence of cities.



  • Society is divided into various different sections.
  • During the 14th century the farmers were pushed away from Agriculture.
  • Feudal lords competed against the rulers. This was seen as a threat to regional unity.
  • As time passed  Clashes increased between church and state.

Confrontation of Cultures

Chapter 8

  • During the 15th century, the geographical discoveries made by Europeans heralded the beginning of a new era.
  • These geographical discoveries were mainly influenced by new scientific inventions, travellers’ accounts, political and religious motives, etc.


Voyages and discoveries

  • In 1492, a Spanish sailor Christopher Columbus discovered America. Later on Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci came to South America in 1499.
  • Economic motives gave a great impetus to European voyages and discoveries.
  • The invention of the compass in 1380 helped the sailors to sail independently in different directions.
  • An Italian Amerigo Vespucci came to South America in 1499 and called it a New World.
  • The Spanish took only two years to conquer Mexico. Cartes became the Captain-General of New Spain in Mexico.
  • Astrolab was invented which helped the sailors to look beyond the normal vision and also helped them to avoid marine danger. Ptolemy’s geographical invention helped in locating places on the basis of latitudinal and longitudinal extents.
  • The Arawaks lived mainly on agriculture, hunting and fishing. Corn, sweet potatoes, tubers, etc. were mainly grown by them.


The Aztecs

  • The Aztecs had migrated from the north into the central valley of Mexico in the 12th century.
  • The Aztecs had established a very vast empire, which was spread over an area of 2 lakh sq. kilometres.
  • Aztec rulers enjoyed supreme powers. 
  • Aztec women were given special status in society.


The Incas of Peru

  • In the twelfth century, the first Inca, Manco Capac established his capital at Cuzco.
  • Inca society was divided into many classes. The upper two classes enjoyed special privileges while the slave stood at the lowest level and was badly treated.
  • The women were given respect in the Inca society.
  • Inca society laid special emphasis on education.
  • Men were imparted military and priestly training in Inca society. The people of the Inca were inspired to live an honest and pious lifestyle.


The Maya

  • The Maya civilization was an important Mexican civilization that came into existence in 1500 BCE.
  • The Mayan civilization reached its peak during the period between 300 to 900 CF.
  • The important centres of Mayan civilization were Mexico, Honduras, El-Salvador and Guatemala.

The Industrial Revolution

Chapter 9

  • The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European scholars – George Michelet in France and Friedrich Engles in Germany.
  • It was used for the first time in English by the philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to describe the changes that occurred in British industrial development between 1760 and 1820 called the ‘first industrial revolution.

  • It refers to the great change in the field of industries when the production of goods by hand in the houses were replaced with the help of machines in factories.
  • It revolutionised the techniques and organisation of production in the latter half of the eighteenth century.



(i) Economic – There was remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of roads and canals and in foreign trade.


(ii) Political – The series of incidents occurred in British industrial development between 1760 and 1820. 

These dates coincided with those of the reign of George III.


Why Britain?:

It had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England, Wales and Scotland unified under a monarchy. 

This meant that the kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was not fragmented by local authorities. 


Besides, England had a great domestic and international market under its control which helped in the growth of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Towns – From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were growing in the area and in population. The population of most of the European cities doubled between 1750 and 1800. The largest of them was London, which served as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest ones located close to it. London had also acquired a global significance.

  • Finance – The Bank of England was founded in 1694.

  • Coal & Iron – Coal and Iron ore were important raw materials. Abraham Darby invented the blast furnace in 1709. The world’s first iron bridge was built during this period.

  • Agricultural Revolution – In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major economic change, later described as the ‘agricultural revolution’. 
  • This was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small farms near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands. The agricultural revolution laid down the foundation of the Industrial Revolution.


(iii) Geographical

  • In the seventeenth century, Wales and Scotland were unified. London was the largest city as well as a city of global trade. England had a number of colonies in Asia, Africa and Europe. These helped in obtaining the raw material for industries.
  • By the eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain.


(i) Positive Effects


The onset of the textile industry also helped in the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.

(a) Invention of Machines in Cotton Industry:

  • The flying shuttle loom invented by John Kay in 1733 revolutionised the textile industry.
  • The spinning jenny
  • The water frame
  • The mule
  • Powerloom


Road Map of Industrial Revolution

(b) Increase in Production


(c) Introduction of Railways & Canals

Railways took industrialization to the second stage.

  • Thomas Savery built a model steam engine the Miner’s Friend in 1698.
  • Another steam engine was built by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. The steam engine had been used only in coal mines until James Watt developed a perfect steam engine in 1769 and established the Soho Foundry in Birmingham.
  • James Brindley built the First English Canal in 1761. The ‘canal mania’ prevailed from 1788 to 1796.
  • The first steam locomotive, Stephenson’s Rocket, appeared in 1814.
  • Richard Trevithick devised an engine – the ‘Puffing Devil’ in 1801 and a locomotive – ‘The Blutcher’ in 1814.
  • The First railway line ran between Stockton and Darlington.
  • The ‘little railway mania’ prevailed from 1833 to 1837 and the bigger ‘mania’ from 1844 to 1847.


Advantages and Disadvantages  –

  •  In the 1830s, the use of canals revealed several problems. 
  • The congestion of vessels made movement slow on certain stretches of canals, and frost, flood or drought limited the time of their use. 
  • The railways now appeared as a convenient alternative. 
  • About 6,000 miles of railway was opened in Britain between 1830 and 1850, most of it in two short bursts. 
  • During the ‘little railway mania’ of 1833-37, 1400 miles of line was built, and during the bigger ‘mania’ of 1844-47, another 9,500 miles of line was sanctioned.


(d) Changed life

  • Profits: Some rich individuals took risks and invested money in industries in the hope that profits could be made, and that their money would ‘multiply’.
  • In most cases, this money did multiply. 
  • Wealth, in the form of goods, incomes, services, knowledge and productive efficiency, did increase dramatically.
  • Huge population:The number of cities in England with a population of over 50,000 grew from two in 1750 to 29 in 1850. This pace of growth was not matched with the provision of adequate housing, sanitation or clean water for the rapidly growing urban population.

(ii) Negative Effects

(a) Condition of workers: There was a massive negative human cost. This was evident in broken families, new addresses, degraded cities and appalling working conditions in factories. The condition of workers was quite miserable. They became victims of restlessness, epidemics and diseases.


(b) Employment of Women and Children in industries: The Industrial Revolution was a time of important changes in the way that children and women worked. 

The earnings of women and children were necessary to supplement men’s meagre wages. 

Factory managers considered child labour to be important training for future factory work


(c) Protest Movement

  • Meaning: Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working conditions of millions of people, including women and children. This sparked off protests, which forced the government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
  • Luddism – Luddism (1811-17) fought for the workers affected by new machines. It was led by the charismatic General Ned Ludd. 
  • Its participants demanded a minimum wage, control over the labour of women and children, work for those who had lost their jobs because of the coming of machinery, and the right to form trade unions so that they could legally present these demands.
  • Result: The government reacted by repression and by new laws that denied people the right to protest. 
  • For this reason, they passed two Combination Acts and supported Corn Laws. Through the Act of 1833 more children were put to work in coal mines.


Reform laws

  • Laws were passed in 1819 prohibiting the employment of children under the age of nine in factories and limiting the hours of work of those between the ages of nine and sixteen to 12 hours a day
  • The Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 banned children under 10 and women from working underground.
  • The Ten Hours’ Bill was introduced in 1847, after more than 30 years of agitation. It limited the hours of work for women and young people and secured a 10-hour day for male workers.
  • Fielder’s Factory Act in 1847 prohibited children and women from working more than 10 hours a day.
  • In the eighteenth century, England witnessed the “Agricultural Revolution and the process of ‘enclosure’.



  • Until the 1970s, historians used the term ‘industrial revolution’ for the changes that occurred in Britain from the 1780s to the 1820s. 
  • From then, it was challenged, on various grounds. Industrialisation had actually been too gradual to be considered a ‘revolution’. 
  • It carried processes that already existed towards new levels. England had changed in a regional manner, prominently around the cities of London, Manchester, Birmingham or Newcastle, rather than throughout the country.
  • Indicators of economic change occurring before and after 1815-20 suggest that sustained industrialisation was to be seen after rather than before these dates.
  • The word ‘industrial’ used with the word ‘revolution’ is too limited. The transformation extended beyond the economic or industrial sphere and into society and gave prominence to two classes: the bourgeoisie and the new class of proletarian labourers in towns and in the countryside

Displacing Indigenous Peoples

Chapter 10



  • The American empires of Spain and Portugal did not expand after the 17th century.
  • The countries like Holland, France and England began to expand their trading activities and to establish colonies in America, Africa and Asia after the 17th century.


Settlers & Natives

  • The word ‘Settler’ is used for the Dutch in South Africa, the British in Ireland. New Zealand and Australia and the Europeans in America.
  • The native people led a simple life. They did not claim their rights over land.


NORTH AMERICA: The Native Peoples

  • The continent of North America extends from Arctic Circle to the Tropic of Cancer and from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The inhabitants of North America used to live in groups before the advent of the Europeans.
  • The original inhabitants of North America came from Asia about 30,000 years ago.
  • The inhabitants of North America grew vegetables and maize. They ate fish and meat also.
  • The people of North America believed in a subsistence economy.
  • People spoke numerous languages, but none of them is available to us in written form.
  • Accounts of historical antecedents were recorded by each tribe.
  • They used to transfer their historical knowledge orally to the next generation.
  • The technique of clothes weaving was also known to the inhabitants.
  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the continent of America.

  • News of the discovery of gold and silver mines in America spread throughout the world.
  • The Hopis were a native tribe who lived near California.
  • Wampum belts are made of coloured shells, sewn together.
  • At the end of the 18th century, Canada came into existence.
  • England had 13 colonies on the eastern coast of America.



  • In the 1840s, traces of gold were found in the USA, in California. It led to the ‘Gold Rush’ when thousands of Europeans hurried to America in the hope of making a quick fortune. It also led to the building of railway lines across the continent.
  • British colonies in America declared war against England in 1776 to gain independence.
  • The War of Independence of the colonies continued till 1783.
  • In 1860, the USA had an undeveloped economy. In 1890, it was the leading industrial power in the world.
  • The invention of barbed wire in 1873 brought out a revolution in American agriculture.
  • The American President Abraham Lincoln played a key role in the abolition of slavery.
  • Explorer William Jansz of Dutch reached Australia in 1606.
  • J. Tasman followed the route of William Jansz and named Tasmania after his name.
  • J. Tasman discovered New Zealand.
  • Another British explorer, James Cook reached the island of Botany Bay in 1770 and named it New South Wales.
  • In Australia, the economic prosperity of the mining industry played a crucial role.
  • Canberra was declared the capital of Australia in 1911.
  • The process of economic development enhanced with the rearing of Marino sheep.


Paths to Modernisation

Chapter 11

  • Different societies have evolved their distinctive modernities. 
  • The Japanese and Chinese cases are very instructive in this regard. 
  • Japan succeeded in remaining free of colonial control and achieved fairly rapid economic and industrial progress throughout the twentieth century. 
  • The Chinese resisted colonial exploitation and their own bureaucratic landed elite through a combination of peasant rebellion, reform and revolution. 
  • Both these countries are situated in far East Asia, yet, they present a marked physical contrast.



Physical Features

  • Japan is a string of islands, the four largest being Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido.
  • There is no major river system.
  • More than 50 per cent of the land area of the main islands is mountainous and Japan is situated in a very active earthquake zone.
  • There are a various homogenous ethnic group like there are a small Ainu minority and Koreans who were forcibly brought as labour when Korea was a Japanese colony.
  • The language spoken is mostly Japanese.
  • Japan lacks a tradition of animal rearing.
  • Rice is the staple crop and fish, the major source of protein.
  • Raw fish (sashimi or sushi) has now become a widely popular dish around the world as it is considered very healthy.


Political System

  • Japan became a modern country from the days of the petty daimyo of Japan.
  • In the twelfth century, the imperial court lost power to shoguns, who in theory ruled in the name of the emperor, with the help of samurais (the warrior class)and daimyo with their capital in Edo (modern Tokyo).
  • In the sixteenth century, Samurai insured peace and order.
  • Japan was divided into more than 250 domains under the rule of lords called 


In the late sixteenth century, three changes laid the pattern for future development.

  1. The peasantry was disarmed and only the samurai could carry swords. This ensured peace and order, ending the frequent wars of the previous century.
  2. The daimyo was ordered to live in the capitals of their domains, each with a large degree of autonomy.
  3. The land surveys identified owners and taxpayers and graded land productivity to ensure a stable revenue base.-
  • By the mid-seventeenth century, Japan had the most populated city in the world – Edo – but also had two other large cities – Osaka and Kyoto.
  • The growth of a commercial economy and a vibrant culture blossomed in the towns, where the fast-growing class of merchants patronised theatre and the arts.
  • Increased use of money and the creation of the stock market led the economy in new ways.
  • Social and intellectual changes that took place – such as the study of ancient Japanese literature – led people to question the degree of Chinese influence and study of ancient Japanese literature promoted.


The Meiji Restoration

  • The Meiji restoration is termed as one of the most momentous events in Japanese history.
  • There were demands for trade and diplomatic relations. In 1853, the USA demanded Japan that the government sign a treaty that would permit trade and open diplomatic relations.
  • Japan lay on the route to China which the USA saw as a major market. At that time, there was only one Western country that traded with Japan, Holland.
  • In 1868, a movement removed Shogun and brought Emperor to Edo. This was made the capital and renamed Tokyo, which means ‘eastern capital’.
  • British dominance in Asia alerted Japan, and scholars there wanted to learn European modern ideas. Many scholars and leaders wanted to learn from the new ideas in Europe; others sought to exclude the Europeans even while being ready to adopt the new technologies they offered. Some argued for a gradual and limited ‘opening’ to the outer world.
  • To develop their economy and build a strong army, the government with the slogan slogan ‘fukoku kyohei’ (rich country, strong army), created a sense of nationhood among the people and transform subjects into citizens.
  • The government also built the ’emperor system’ – a system, where the emperor along with the bureaucracy and the military, exercised power. 
  • The Emperor was treated with reverence as he was considered a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess but he was also shown as the leader of westernisation. His birthday became a national holiday, he wore Western-style military uniforms.

Meiji Reforms

  1. Administrative Reforms: The Meiji government imposed a new administrative structure by altering old village and domain boundaries to integrate the nation.In 1871, feudalism was abolished under Meiji rule.

  1. Economic Reforms: Another Meiji reforms was the modernising of the economy. Japan’s first railway line, between Tokyo and the port of Yokohama, was built in 1870-72. In 1872, modern banking institutions were launched. Zaibatsu (business families) dominated the economy.

  1. Industrial Reforms: Textile machinery was imported from Europe, and foreign technicians were employed to train workers, as well as to teach in universities and schools, and Japanese students were sent abroad. The number of people in manufacturing increased. Over half of those employed in modern factories were women. The size of factories also began to increase.

  1. Agricultural Reforms: Funds were raised by levying an agricultural tax.

  1. Constitutional Reforms: In 1889, Japan adopted the new constitution. The Meiji Constitution had created a Diet and declared emperor as the commander of the forces, it was based on a restricted franchise.

  1. Educational Reforms:A new school system began to be built in the 1870s. Schooling was compulsory for boys and girls and by 1910 almost universal. Tuition fees were minimal. Tokyo University was established in 1877.

  1. Military Reforms: All young men over twenty had to do a period of military service. A modern military force was developed. The military and the bureaucracy were put under the direct command of the emperor.


Re-emergence of Japan as a Global Economic Power

  • During 1930, Japan exercised imperialist policy and invaded China to extend its colonial empire. 
  • Japan’s attempt to carve out a colonial empire ended with its defeat by the Allied forces. 
  • However, it was defeated in World War II when the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It resulted in the huge destruction of the masses. 
  • Under the US-led Occupation (1945-47) Japan was demilitarised and a new constitution introduced. 


Japanese philosopher Miyake Setsurei (1860-1945) argued that each nation must develop its special talents in the interest of world civilisation.

 The rapid rebuilding of the Japanese economy after its shattering defeat was called a post-war ‘miracle’.

  • The new constitution had Article 9, the so-called ‘no war clause’ that renounces the use of war as an instrument of state policy.
  • Agrarian reforms, the re-establishment of trade unions and an attempt to dismantle the zaibatsu or large monopoly houses that dominated the Japanese economy were also carried out.
  • Constitution was democratised.
  • Political parties were revived and the first post-war elections held in 1946.
  • Suffrage was given to women in the elections of 1946.
  • There was a close relationship between the government, bureaucracy and industry.
  • Japan also introduced better goods at cheaper rates in the market with its advanced technologies.
  • US support, as well as the demand created by the Korean and the Vietnamese wars also helped the Japanese economy.
  • The 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo, symbolised the maturity of Japan’s economy.
  • The introduction of a network of high-speed Shinkansen or bullet trains started in 1964, which ran at 200 miles per hour, added to it prosperity.
  • In the 1960s several pressure groups protested against industrial pollution. Industrialisation was pushed with utter disregard with the growth of civil society movements, due to its harmful effect on health and the environment.
  • Government action and new legal regulations helped to improve conditions.


Physical Features

  • China is a vast continental country that spans many climatic zones.
  • The core is dominated by three major river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He), the Yangtse River (Chang Jiang – the third-longest river in the world) and the Pearl River.
  • A large part of the country is mountainous.
  • There are divergent ethnic group – Han, Uighur, Hui, Manchu and Tibetan.
  • The major languages spoken are Chinese and Cantonese.
  • Chinese food reflects this regional diversity. Southern or Cantonese cuisine include dim sum (literally touch your heart), an assortment of pastries and dumpling. While, in the north, wheat is the staple food while in Szechuan spices have created a fiery cuisine. In eastern China, both rice and wheat are eaten.


History of China 

  • The beginning of modern China can be traced to its first encounter with the West in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • During 1839-42, the British won the first opium war in China and snatched power from the Qing dynasty. The second opium war was fought in 1856-60.
  • It revolves around three questions – a) How to regain Sovereignty b) End the humiliation of Foreign Occupation c) Bring out equality and development.
  • There were three views:
  • i) Liang Qichao used traditional ideas in a new and different way to meet Western challenges. He popularised Chinese nationalism.
  • ii) Republican revolutionaries Sun Yat-Sen inspired by the ideas from Japan and the West. He was the founder of modern China and established a republic in 1911 AD.
  • iii) The Communist Party of China (CCP) wanted to end age-old inequalities and dispel foreigners.
  • Later, the Guomindang (the National People’s Party) along with the CCP strived to unite the Chinese.
  • Chiang Kai Shek, leader of the Guomindang, militarised China.
  • Mao Zedong, CCP leader, organised Soviets or peasant councils and fought Japanese colonisation.
  • When Guomindang (the National People’s Party) intensified attacks, the Soviets shifted the base to Yanan, after a ‘Long March’. 
  • The Communist Party captured power and established the People’s Republic in 1949.


Establishing the Republic:

  • Manchu dynasty overthrown and a republic established in 1911 under Sun Yat-Sen. He studied medicine but was greatly concerned about the fate of China.
  • Yat-Sen’s programme was called the Three Principles – These were nationalism – this meant overthrowing the Manchu who was seen as a foreign dynasty, as well as other foreign imperialists; democracy or establishing democratic government; and socialism regulating capital and equalizing landholdings..
  • Revolutionaries asked for –  driving out the foreigners to control natural resources, to remove inequalities, reduce poverty.
  • Advocated reforms –  use of simple language, abolish foot binding and female subordination, equality in marriage and economic development.
  • Sun Yat-sen’s ideas became the basis of the political philosophy of the Guomindang which were identified as the ‘four great needs –  clothing food, housing and transportation.
  • After the death of Sun, Chiang Kaishek (1887-1975) emerged as the leader of the Guomindang. He launched a military campaign to control the ‘warlords’, regional leaders who had usurped authority and to eliminate the communists.
  • He advocated a secular and rational ‘this-worldly’ Confucianism.
  • He encouraged women to cultivate the four virtues of ‘chastity, appearance, speech and work’ and recognise their role as confined to the household.


The Guomindang despite its attempts to unite the country failed because of its shallow social and political vision:

  • Sun Yat-Sen’s programme of regulating capital and equalising land – was never carried out.
  • the party ignored the peasantry and the rising social inequalities. It sought to impose military order rather than address the problems faced by the people.


The rise of the Communist Party of China

When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, the Guomindang retreated. The long and exhausting war weakened China. Prices rose 30 per cent per month between 1945 and 1949 and utterly destroyed the lives of ordinary people.



Rural China faced two crises

(a) Ecological Factors:

  • Soil Exhaustion
  • Deforestation
  • Floods

(b) Socio-Economic Factors

  • Exploitative land-tenure systems
  • Indebtedness
  • Primitive Technology
  • Poor Communications

The CCP had been founded in 1921, soon after the Russian Revolution. 

Mao Zedong (1893-1976), who emerged as a major CCP leader, took a different path by basing his revolutionary programme on the peasantry. His success made the CCP a powerful political force that ultimately won against the Guomindang. In 1949, Communist Government was established in China and began a new age in the history of China.


Establishing the New Democracy 1949-65

The Peoples Republic of China government was established in 1949.

It was based on the principles of the ‘New Democracy’, an alliance of all social classes.

  • Critical areas of the economy were put under government control.
  • Private enterprise and private ownership of land were abolished.
  • The Great Leap Forward movement launched in 1958 was a policy to galvanise the country to industrialise rapidly.
  • Mao was able to mobilise the masses to attain the goals set by the Party. His concern was with creating a ‘socialist man’ who would have five loves: fatherland, people, labour, science and public property.
  • Liu Shao-chi (1896-1969) and Deng Xiaoping (1904-97) tried to modify the commune system as it was not working efficiently. The steel produced in the backyard furnaces was unusable industrially.


Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

  • The conflict between the concept of ‘socialist man’ and those who objected to his emphasis on ideology rather than expertise led Mao to launch the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1965.
  • The Red Guards, mainly students and the army, was used for a campaign against old culture, old customs and old habits.
  • Students and professionals were sent to the countryside to learn from the masses.
  • Ideology became more important than professional knowledge. Denunciations and slogans replaced rational debate.
  • The Cultural Revolution began a period of turmoil, weakened the Party and severely disrupted the economy and educational system.
  • In 1975, the party once again laid emphasis on greater social discipline and the need to build an industrial economy.


Reforms of 1978 Deng Xiaoping

  • Deng Xiaoping kept party control strong while introducing a socialist market economy.
  • In 1978, the Party declared its goal as the Four Modernisations  –  science, industry, agriculture and defence.
  • ‘The Fifth Modernisation’ proclaimed that without Democracy the other modernisations would come to nothing.
  • in 1989, on the seventieth anniversary of the May Fourth movement many intellectuals called for a greater openness and an end to ‘ossified dogmas’ (su shaozhi).
  • Student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing were brutally repressed.
  • The post-reform period has seen the emergence of debates on ways to develop China.
  • Growing revival of traditional ideas of Confucianism and arguments that China can build a modern society based on its own traditions rather than simply copying the West.


The Story of Taiwan

  • Taiwan had been a Japanese colony since the Chinese ceded it after the 1894-95 war with Japan.
  • The Cairo Declaration (1943) and the Potsdam Proclamation (1949) restored sovereignty to China.
  • The GMD, under Chiang Kai-shek, went on to establish a repressive government forbidding the freedom of speech, political opposition banned.
  • They excluded the local population from positions of power. 
  • They carried out land reforms that increased agricultural productivity and modernised the economy s
  • Transformation of Taiwan into a democracy after the death of Chiang in 1975.
  • Martial law lifted in 1987 and opposition parties were legally permitted.
  • Diplomatically most countries have only trade missions in Taiwan instead of complete diplomatic ties because it (Taiwan) is considered to be part of China.
  • The question of reunification with the mainland remains a contentious issue but “ Cross-Strait” relations (that is between Taiwan and China) have been improving.
  • China may be willing to tolerate a semi-autonomous Taiwan as long as it gives up any move to seek independence.


Two Roads to Modernisation

  • The histories of Japan and China show how different historical conditions led them on widely divergent paths to building independent and modern nations.
  • Japan was successful in retaining its independence and using traditional skills and practices in new ways.
  • In the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) China faced a humiliating defeat. On 17 April 1895, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed between China and Japan, ending the First Sino-Japanese War.
  • The Chinese became vulnerable after their defeat and declared that both China and Japan needed reforms for modernisation.
  • The sino-Japanese war served as the basis for the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902.
  • The Chinese path to modernisation was very different.
  • Foreign imperialism, both Western and Japanese, combined with a hesitant and unsure Qing dynasty to weaken government control.
  • The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a rejection of traditions and a search for ways to build national unity and strength.