Despite the rapid growth of Chinese historical studies in the United States, a crucial epoch in the background of modern China has for a long time received the attention of comparatively few scholars. I refer to the early and middle Ch'ing period-the two centuries before the Opium War that saw the consolidation and the heyday of the Manchu rule in China. In the nineteen thirties American sinology was fascinated by the period. It was then that Pritchard published his books on the early relations between England and China, and Goodrich his study of the literary inquisition under Ch'ien-lung; that the great biographical dictionary, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, was prepared; that Fairbank and Teng were working on the Ch'ing documents and on the tributary system, and Michael on early Manchu military and political organization.1 But the Pacific War and the events in China that followed focused scholarly interest on that country's more recent experience. While many took up the study of “modern China,” inquiry into the Ch'ing before the nineteenth century was continued by only a few. Only in the last twelve years have we again seen the appearance of major studies touching upon the China of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ho's works on commercial capitalism, population, social mobility, and voluntary associations; books on the shen-shih, the bureaucracy, and local government by Chang, Hsiao, Marsh, and Ch'ü; an analysis of rural social structure by Skinner; writings by de Bary, Nivison, and Wilhelm on intellectual history.

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