China was afflicted by a brutal succession of conflicts through much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet there has never been clear understanding of how wartime suffering defined the nation and shaped its people.
In Beyond Suffering, a distinguished group of historians of modern China look beyond the geopolitical aspects of war to explore its social, institutional, and cultural dimensions, from child rearing and education to massacres and warlord mutinies. Though accounts of war-inflicted suffering are often fragmented or politically motivated, the authors show that they are crucial to understanding the multiple fronts on which wars are fought, experienced, and remembered. The chapters in Part 1, "Society at War," reveal how war and militarization can both structure and destabilize society, while those in Part 2, "Institutional Engagement," show how institutions and the people they represent can become pawns in larger power struggles. Lastly, Part 3, "Memory and Representation," examines the various media, monuments, and social controls by which war has been memorialized.
Although many of the conflicts described in Beyond Suffering barely registered against the sweeping backdrop of Chinese history, such conflicts bring us closer to understanding war, militarism, and suffering in modern China.
Norman Smith received his PhD from the University of British Columbia, and engaged in postdoctoral studies at Oxford and the University of Washington. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the History Department and the Coordinator of the Women's Studies Program.