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China and the World, Around 1800.docx

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Paul Thompson

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HIS280 China and the World, Around 1800 February 16th 2012
Requirements for the Term Paper
- 8-10 pages
- At least four secondary sources
- Major journals for the history of China (available through UofT Library website, “eJournals):
o Toung Pao
o Journal of Asian Studies
o Late Imperial China
o Ming Studies
o Nan mu
o Modern China
Lecture Outline
- Finishing up the High Qing period: the granary system
- The Macartney Embassy (1793), the Heshen Affair (1796-1799), and the White Lotus Rebellion
- The emergence of a properly capitalist world-economy, and what that means
o The British in America and Bengal
o Comparative colonialism and imperialism, again
- The decline of China and the ascent of Europe:
o The opium trade
o The Canton System
o The lead-up to the opium wars (1839-42, 1856-60)
The Qing Granary System, 1650-1850
- The High Qing period is both a culmination/continuation of long-term trends in Chinese history
and also an instance of new trends and developments
- Schematically speaking, the Kangxi emperor tried to organize his policies around the interests of
the gentry (tax remissions, etc.)
- The Yongzheng emperor took a number of steps to centralize administration and finance,
sometimes at the expense of the gentry
- Qianlong seeks to try to steer a middle ground, moving back towards a kind of accommodating
stance toward the gentry while still maintaining the centralized administration put in place by
his father
- Oscillation between imperial dynasty and the elites
- Dynasties have instituted public help institutions dates back to the Western Han
- The question of how involved the imperial state should be in storing grain for the masses has
been a fundamental part of Chinese political thought for centuries

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HIS280 China and the World, Around 1800 February 16th 2012
- All the political thinkers of the Han and Song dynasties were not actually operating a system
anything like the scale, degree of integration, and degree of systematic complexity that existed
in the Qing dynasty’s granary system
- The Qing dynasty created an amazingly complex series of projects designed to see to the
subsistence requirements of its entire population
- You can roughly divide the development of the Qing granary system into three stages:
1. 1650-1735: Building a Foundation
o Granaries are basically used as a first line of defense against famine and as a source of
seed grain for the cultivation of new land
2. 1735-1780: Period of Greatest Functioning
o Height of the system
o System is divided into three tiers:
o The biggest granaries are the ones called the Ever Normal Granaries
Meant to be self-financing and used as a way of regulating the market prices of
grain to provide relief in cases of famine or shortages, used to equalize grain
prices over the annual cycle, and to move grain from places where it was
abundant and cheap (raising the prices there and thus motivates production) to
places where it was in short supply and expensive
o Community Granaries
Largely organized by local magistrates and stocked from the surplus grain
produced in a given area
o Charity Granaries
Organized by magistrates in consultation with local elites; basically local elites
with money to spare could purchase grain and put it into these charity granaries
in exchange for small benefits (tax reduction, low-level examination degrees,
exemption from corporeal punishment, etc.)
o The amount of information produced to maintain this system was staggering
o It’s basically until about the 20th century the largest subsistence maintenance project
ever launched in human history
o Where market conditions were good, and a good transport system, storage quotas were
relatively low
o Where the state could rely on the market and local society, it generally chose to do so
o One of the things that happened from the 1760s onwards, the state could increasingly
rely on the markets as the effects of its policies became more firmly ensconced into
Chinese society
o Here, the state was hardly anti-market
o In many places, state activities were the condition for there being a market
3. 1780-1850: Progressive Decline
o State gradually begins to withdraw from intensely surveying and controlling the Ever-
Normal Granaries and gradually ceases to monitor the other two granaries
o Gradually allows local elites to deal with these granaries and their reserves
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