Restoring “History” to Historical Study

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Xiaofei Tian



Reviewing a recent book about early medieval Chinese geographical writings, this essay asks what sort of historical contextualization is needed for historical study, and suggests looking at multiple factors, including the material conditions of textual production, that may be responsible for the proliferation of texts. It cautions against embracing a single story to account for a long historical period, especially if that story fits our modern concerns too neatly; even more importantly, we have to allow the primary sources to take the lead, rather than looking for and presenting only evidence that serves a particular agenda.

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