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Work and Workers in 20th century China


Admission requirements

Successful completion of BA-1 College Modern Chinese History.


This course surveys transformations in Chinese society in its transition from agrarianism to communist industrialism, with special focus on experiences of urban workers and their families at work and home, and in public. Specific topics examined include migration for work, the labor movement in the 1920s, changes in standards of living, gender relations, the politicization of work under Nationalist and Communist regimes, and Communist governance of industrial labor.

Important note: This course is separate from the course titled “Modern Chinese History.” Students are required to complete “Modern Chinese History” before taking this course.

Course objectives

  • Summarize and interpret key economic and social trends in the twentieth century.

  • Identify key transition moments and analyze causal factors of these transitions.

  • Formulate evidence-based arguments in academic English.

  • Design a research project on a topic related to industrial work and labor.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Written exam = 40%
Research proposal = 60%


The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components.


A resit for the final exam is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Ta Chen, Chinese Migrations, with Special Reference to Labor Conditions. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1923.

  • Jean Chesneaux, The Chinese Labor Movement, 1919-1927, trans. by H.M. Wright. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1968.

  • Gail Hershatter, Women and China's Revolutions. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018.

  • Emily Honig, Sisters and Strangers: Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills, 1919-1949. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.

  • Felix Wemheuer, A Social History of Maoist China: Conflict and Change, 1949-1976. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Additional readings to be announced on Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: OA De Vrieshof


FAT-module course, twice a week in block 3 only.