Jiang Sun
Pages 1-9


Conceptual history has recently become a popular subject within Chinese academia, and its methods are being applied to various fields in the humanities and social sciences. I was invited to give a keynote speech in the academic seminar “History Education in Schools,” hosted by Yangzhou University, and asked to write a paper about “Conceptual History and History Textbooks.” As one who studies history, it goes without saying that I am deeply affected by the immense importance of history education. I still remember that the “Cultural Revolution” was just ending when I was in my first year of junior high school. The line, “Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated. Such is history; such is the history of civilization for thousands of years,” was printed on the front page of my History of Social Development textbook. This sentence comes from Mao Zedong’s article, “Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle,” which was my first lesson in history. The concept of class struggle has infiltrated every aspect of Chinese society and has influenced the perspectives and attitudes toward history of several generations of Chinese people. So, is conceptual history related to history textbooks? Yes. By history, we mean today’s representations of what happened in the past, while the past events written in history textbooks are the representations of a representation, twice removed from the events themselves. Readers understand the representation through the re-representation, and thus approach the reality of history. History textbooks, as re-representations, are compiled based on certain, non-universal purposes and methods. Without conceptual support, the narratives would be pedestrian, just as Veni, Vidi, Vici- “I came, I saw, I conquered”—is a chronicle of events. Conversely, if you would like to understand the internal structure of history textbooks, you must start by analyzing their conceptual bases.