The Boxer Uprising and historical method -Syllabus blogging

There is something of a tradition here at the Frog of posting our syllabai for upcoming courses and asking for suggestions. This summer I promised myself that I would get a post up by June and and be able to actually use the suggestions rather than just thinking ‘good idea for next time’. I am pretty proud that I actually have this up a week before classes start. Regardless of my procrastination any comments that could be used now or major things that will have to be put in next time are welcome.

The class is HIST 200, Introduction to History, our methods course for majors. This is actually the last time it will be taught, as starting next semester it will be split into two classes. I like using Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997 as the main text and organizing principle for the class because

1. It is a really good book, and having students read good books is the point of history classes

2. Cohen talks a lot about what history is and how to do it.

3. It is a China topic with a lot of non-China implications, which is good given that this is a class for all History majors

So, here it is. The formatting will be different, as in the draft I have the guidelines for assignments mixed in with the weekly summaries. I still have some work to do on this, but I would really be interested in suggestions on new readings and assignments.


History 200 Introduction to History


The point of this class is to help you learn how to think, read and write like a historian. To that end we will be looking at how various different people have interpreted one event, the Boxer Uprising/Rebellion/Movement of 1899-1900. We will also be looking at all sorts of different historical products, from monographs and textbooks to films and graphic novels, and producing all sorts of different things from essays to the outline of a research paper, to a Digital history project. We will also talk some careers and your future as a historian.


-Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

-Arnold, John. History: a Very Short Introduction. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

-Benjamin, Jules R. Student’s Guide to History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. (Any recent edition of this is fine)

Professor: Alan Baumler 216 Keith Hall E-mail website Office hours 11:00-12:00 MTWF and by appointment.


Week 1+2 Reading a textbook

We will read and analyze various textbook sections on the Boxers. The main purpose of this is to help you start thinking more critically about textbooks and what they are trying to do. We will also talk about how to use Wikipedia.

Book notes assignment

Textbook assignment


The purpose of this assignment is for you to learn to read, summarize, and analyze the works of other authors. You will read 3 discussions of the Boxer Uprising and write about each of them individually and collectively. So your final paper should have 4 parts, one part for the summary and an analysis of each reading, and then a comparison section.


1. A summary of the main points of each. This is the same sort of thing you should be doing when you read any assignment. These should be a bit more formal than just notes for yourself. You don’t need any analysis of what the author is doing, just summarize what they say.


2. An analysis of their work. What are they stressing or leaving out, what might this be useful for? When you are going back to these reading notes you want to be able to find out that this reading gives a good description of the relationships between the Five Nations of the Iroquois or a clear description of the religious views of Justinian II without having to go back to the reading.


3. A comparison of the readings. Are the authors asking different questions, using different sources, writing better or worse? Which of these would be most useful for different audiences?


Our selections are from


-Borthwick, Mark. Pacific Century: The Emergence of Modern Pacific Asia. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2007.

-Hsü, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

-Fairbank, John King. East Asia: Tradition and Transformation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

-Lipman, Jonathan Neaman, Barbara Molony, and Michael Edson Robinson. Modern East Asia: An Integrated History. Boston: Pearson, 2012.

-Meinig, D. W. The Shaping of America: a Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History. Vol.3,. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1986.

-Schoppa, R. Keith. Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2011.

-Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton, 1991.

-Stewart, Richard W, and Center of Military History. American Military History. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army., 2009.


You can choose any three of these you wish, but it may be easier to make a good comparison if you choose three different ones, like a China text, and East Asian text and one of the American ones. Between my office and the library you can find the full text of all of these, if you think the provided selections are too small.


Week 3 Lectures and how to understand them.

Most of the lectures you will get in class are just the professor explaining something they got from a book. I will be giving a couple lectures and you will be taking notes on them and analyzing what I think I am doing.


Class notes assignment

See Benjamin for ideas on class notes. Each of you will be turning in a set of notes on my lectures, and while these should be the things that you think will work for you I will be grading them.


Week 4 Reading articles and book chapters We will read a selection of book chapters and academic articles (the building blocks of historical knowledge ) and analyze how they work.


Article review paper


Article Review


Each of you will need to pick three articles or book chapters from this list and turn them in along with a short description of why you think they would be interesting to review. Then I will pick one for you and you will write a review. Guidelines for that are on my webpage and the syllabus. Note that there are other articles and especially chapters from these books you can do if none of these appeal to you.


“Why Western Cultural Inhibitions Prevented the Exploitation of a Technology for Over half a Century” from Elliott, Jane E. Some Did It for Civilization, Some Did It for Their Country: a Revised View of the Boxer War. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2002.


“Guan County, 1898: The Emergence of the “Boxers United in Righteousness”” from Esherick, Joseph. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.


Forman, Ross G. “Peking Plots: Fictionalizing the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.” Victorian Literature and Culture 27, no. 1 (January 1, 1999): 19–48. doi:10.2307/25058437.


Haddad, John R. “The Wild West Turns East: Audience, Ritual, and Regeneration in Buffalo Bill’s Boxer Uprising.” American Studies 49, no. 3 (2008): 5–38. doi:10.1353/ams.2010.0050.


Harrison, Henrietta. “Newspapers and Nationalism in Rural China 1890-1929.” Past & Present no. 166 (February 1, 2000): 181–204. doi:10.2307/651298.


“The Boxer Uprising and the Souls in Purgatory” from Harrison, Henrietta The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village, 2013.


Hevia, James L. “Leaving a Brand on China: Missionary Discourse in the Wake of the Boxer Movement.” Modern China 18, no. 3 (July 1, 1992): 304–332. doi:10.2307/189335.


Hevia, James, “Looting and Its Discontents: Moral Discourse and the Plunder of Beijing, 1900-1901” in Bickers, Robert A, and R. G Tiedemann. “The Boxers, China, and the World.” Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. (There is a lot more in this book. Ask me if you would be interested )


“Doctrines of Fear and Force” and “Standard Practices” from Hull, Isabel V. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany, 2005.


King, Frank H. H. “The Boxer Indemnity: ‘Nothing but Bad’.” Modern Asian Studies 40, no. 3 (July 1, 2006): 663–689. doi:10.2307/3876542.


“”With Shut Mouths, They Took Their Measure”” from Silbey, David. The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China, 2013.


Thompson, Roger “Military dimensions of the ‘Boxer Uprising’ in Shanxi, 1898-1901” in Hans J. Van der Ven. ed. Warfare in Chinese History. BRILL, 2000.


van de Ven, Hans “Robert Hart and Gustav Detring During the Boxer Rebellion.” Modern Asian Studies 40, no. 3 (July 1, 2006): 631–662. doi:10.2307/3876541.


Wasserstrom, Jeffrey. “‘Civilization’ and Its Discontents: The Boxers and Luddites as Heroes and Villains.” Theory and Society 16, no. 5 (September 1, 1987): 675–707. doi:10.2307/657679.


Week 5 Writing an essay


Essay assignment 1


You will be writing two essays for this class. Essays are usually the most important way your history professors form their opinions of you. We may ask short answer or multiple choice questions, but you demonstrate real historical knowledge in your essays. On this assignment I will assign you a question and you will answer it. For the final one you will have to come up with your own question and answer it, and will be graded both on your question and your answer.


Week 6 Planning your career. The is where we will talk about what you can do when you grow up. A lot of this will focus on public history, as it is something that is relevant to everyone and also a career choice many of you many not have thought about.


Workshops on Public History, Graduate School, and Study Abroad.


Hung, Chang-tai. “Revolutionary History in Stone: The Making of a Chinese National Monument.” The China Quarterly no. 166 (June 1, 2001): 457–473. doi:10.2307/3451166.


Week 7 Framing a question and figuring out how to do research. We will work on basic question-framing and doing research at IUP. This is a little early in the semester to work on this, but I want to give you plenty of time for your research project.


Zotero workshop


Workshop on Zotero and keeping track of stuff

Zotero is one of a number of bibliographic programs you can use to capture references and keep track of your stuff. I will show you some things you can do with the program, and maybe some things with Mandeley. You don’t have to use the software, but you do need to come to the workshop and you do need to start thinking about what sorts of computer stuff can help you.


Week 8 The history of History.

With the help of Arnold we will look at some of the ways that historians in the past have looked at history and what sort of questions they have asked and how they have answered them.


Arnold, entire.


“There was no King in Israel” from Novick, Peter. That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.


Arnold/Novick essay


Weeks 9 and 10 History in Three Keys Cohen is our main book for this class, and we will be spending a good deal of time with his ideas about how historians make stories out of the experiences that people record.


Cohen essay


Week 11 The research project is the most important part of of the class, and we will look at what you are finding and how to assess it. We will also work on how to write a review of a monograph, which is an important part of the project.


Complete draft of research project.


Research Proposal


Each of you will write a research proposal for a short, 15 page research paper you would like to write. You will need to write research proposals in the future for things like doing a senior honors thesis and applying for grants. This proposal will be a bit longer and more detailed than one of those, but the basic idea is the same, to tell someone what your paper is going to show and what sources it will be based on and convince them that this idea will work and they should approve your project.


To write a good proposal you need to think of a topic, find sources that might help you to answer the question and refine the question based on the sources you were able to find. These are pretty much the same things you need to do for a real paper.


For this paper you will need to come up with a topic that will answer some sort of question about some topic related to the Boxers. The relationship can be pretty vague, and the paper does not need to be about Boxers or China. Some topic about missionaries, imperialism, popular religion, etc, would be fine.


It needs to be a topic that you could theoretically deal with in a short, 15 page paper you could write here at IUP. So “A Complete History of the U.S. Marines” is out, as is “A Comparative Study of Missionaries Around the World” (both too big). “Russian Attitudes Towards China as Seen in Diaries of Russian Travelers, 1850-1919” won’t work, nor will “Chinese Peasant Attitudes Towards Christianity” (how would you get or read the sources?)


The final project will include.


-A one paragraph topic statement that will explain what the paper will show.


-An annotated bibliography that explains what sources you found and why you think they will be useful. You don’t have to read all the stuff, but you do need to at least look at it enough to get an idea what it might be good for.


-A formal, 5-7 page book review of one monograph mentioned in your bibliography. This does not have to be the most important book on the topic, just the one you would most like to review.



You will also be doing a brief oral presentation to the class about your project.



Week 12 Reading and working with primary source is both good and fun. We will be working with both some collected sources (Sharf and Harrington) and some sources you find on your own.


Primary source project


Primary source project


For this project each of you will have to read and write an analysis of at least one primary source reading from Sharf and Harrington China 1900: The Eyewitnesses Speak, and at least one other primary source that you find yourself. This could be from a newspaper, a book, a journal, anywhere you can find stuff. You can use more than one source from each category if you wish. Guidelines for writing a primary source analysis are on the website.


Week 13 Most of what we have been doing up to now has been academic history, but we will also look at what popular history is and how people who work for a living have understood the Boxers.


Our main texts will be the Hollywood film 55 Days at Peking (1963, starring Charlton Heston), the 1976 Shaw Brothers movie Boxer Rebellion, some readings from the Chinese novel Wang Shuo. Please Don’t Call Me Human. Boston: Cheng & Tsui Co., 2003. and some stuff from Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel Boxers & Saints.


You may want to look at what Professor Yang has to say about his work here


Assignment: Movie/comic review


Week 14 Research projects due and final presentations.





I realize that you are more interested in learning things and growing as a(n) historian that in anything so artificial as a grade, but if you do care a bit, here is the breakdown.


Research project 30% (This is just the final project, not the various intermediate assignments or the oral presentation)

Article Review 15%

Workshop reports 5%

-You will need to attend at least two workshops, including the Zotero one, and write up a report on them.

Essays/Assignments. 40%

-All of the major class assignments listed individually on the syllabus go here.

Quizzes 10% – All the other small assignments I ask you to do go here. This includes the digital history assignment, if you choose to do it.

Oral Presentation -5%





  1. I’m impressed by, among other things, the honesty of this syllabus (“Essays are usually the most important way your history professors form their opinions of you.”).

    When it’s split up, how are they dividing the course? (or to put it another way, “You get to give them a full year of foundation method courses?!? Cool!”)

  2. Regarding honesty, I try to put as much of my thinking about the class and the assignments in the text as I can. This is the week I spend thinking about what I can make them do why I want them to do it, so I figure I might as well give them as much of that stuff as I can in the syllabus.

    We decided to split up the course because there was just too much stuff in HIST 200 for one semester, so starting in the Spring they are supposed to HIST 295 as second semester freshmen. This version of the class is a lot like what that will be, lots of stuff on how to read a textbook/article/monograph, some basic writing stuff and the career things you should think about early in your program.

    Then sophomore or junior year, but before they sign up for the final research paper class, they take HIST 395, which is a more research and historiography heavy class. Both of these are supposed to be organized around a theme (like this one with the Boxers) so they get at least some content out of it. We will see how it works.

  3. I second Jonathan’s enthusiasm — what a smart and fresh look at an old topic. I wish I could sit in on this course and listen to the fights that ought to break out.

    One further thought is that you might steer some of the students to those famous “Chinese voices.” I like the way you say “Boxer Uprising/ Rebellion/ Movement,” for instance, but I’m sure that in class you will add that in Chinese it’s Yihetuan and maybe talk about the problem of when to use imperialist labeling and when to use patriotic terms!

    I don’t know of any extensive translations of the Boxer interviews done in the PRC, but there are review articles about some Chinese sources which might make good papers:

    Chung Tan, “Yi Ho Tuan Movement: The Most Heroic Boxing on Earth,” China Report 16.2 (1980): 5-27.

    David D. Buck, “Recent Studies of the Boxer Movement,” Chinese Studies in History 20 (1987), the Introduction to this issue of translated articles.

    And if anyone is up for nearly five hundred pages of blood, there’s always Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 Translated by Howard Goldblatt.)

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