A review of images of an empire: Chinese geography textbooks of the early 20th century, Mats Norvenius
School textbooks are interesting and tricky primary sources for historians to use. They often offer rather simplified worldviews due to their didactic function (especially those for school children). Yet they also provide us with “frozen pictures” (p. 14) of what the educated elites wanted the young generation to know of the world at a certain point in history. Mats Norvenius’s dissertation examines Chinese geography textbooks used within the framework of China’s first modern national educational system during the closing years of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Focusing mainly on the sections in textbooks which discuss human geography (descriptions concerning geographical environment and race, progress, government systems, social structures, etc.), the dissertation explores how the Chinese (mainly Han) educators viewed themselves and other inhabitants of the multiethnic Qing Empire, as well as the peoples of neighboring Korea and Japan.