For Teachers: Lessons

Standards of Modernity — China and Europe

Kelly Donaghue, Harbor School, Boston, Massachusetts

Background Information for the Teacher

Review the Web module "China and Europe 1500-2000 and Beyond: What is 'Modern'?" on the Asia for Educators site.

Note in particular:

  • Bin Wong’s definition of modernity "a political system with democratic representation, an economy that has an industrial sector, and a social system with urban workers, professionals, and businessmen."
  • Kenneth Pomeranz’s suggestion that we should first compare similarities between China and Europe before identifying differences
  • Bin Wong’s argument that traditional teaching has suggested that modernity is associated with that which was experienced in Europe (England) in the 19th century only, and "what existed in the rest of the world until the Europeans arrived" was not at all considered modern.

Also recommended:

John M. Hobson’s The Eastern Origins of Western Civilizations for a thorough account of the origins of technologies that were considered Western, but actually were adopted from the East (specifically the Muslim world and China).