Update 7/15: Between the Two Constitutions

 

The two major primary documents I located, transcribed, and translated during my archival visit in Beijing were two Chinese constitutions promulgated in 1908 and 1911. The juxtaposition of these codes corroborates China’s political progression in the 1900s, when the country witnessed a constitutionalist reform initiated by the late-Qing regime. Represented democracy and separation of power are the keynotes of the two constitutions. Though the constitutionalism and the corresponding political reform failed to preserve the late-Qing regime, the later Nationalist republic in China inherited the essence of the 1900s reform. At this moment, I’d like to temporarily set aside the longstanding historical significance and concentrate on these two documents alone.

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Update 7/10: Archival Trip to Beijing

 

Things happened, but I am back from Beijing.

The entrance into the China First Historical Archive in Beijing requires an application on arrival, which I did expect but was overly optimistic about. Unlike a visa on arrival, the application does not guarantee the permission of entry. Though seeing a reference letter from a Chinese professor (who does not supervise the project but is willing to validate my identity and research project, and wish to be anonymous), the archive’s receptionist immediately denied my entrance on the first day I arrived in Beijing. While presuming I might be admitted the day after submitting my application, I was notified on the next day that the review of application could take a week at most. When I waited for the application result, I have visited the Chinese National Library and National Museum and attended few historical seminars hosted by the Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. I received the entry permit from the archive’s administration on the fifth day in Beijing. The whole administrative impediment, except the requirement of a reference letter from a Chinese scholar, was not mentioned by the archive staff, who answered my phone call and inquiries before I set off.

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Update 6/13: Some Thoughts about the Outline and Some Questions to Answer

Research Update, 06/13

 

Tentative outline and thesis

The purpose of this research project is to analyze the significance of late-Qing constitutions, and to understand late-Qing constitutional movements’ political legacy. My tentative thesis suggests that the two constitutions published in early twentieth-century Qing China symbolized China’s political modernization, as China, for the first time, had a body of written fundamental laws to function as its constitution. The late-Qing constitutions are drastically different and much more progressive than Qing China’s earlier legal system constituted by the Qing Huidian. While the first version of late-Qing constitution, Principles of the Constitution, seemed a partial compromise to settle reform demands from the public, the latter Doctrines of the Constitution reflected late-Qing government’s resolve to launch reform. Doctrines of the Constitution, though failed to prevent Qing China’s downfall, facilitated the proliferation of a collective Chinese identity and sovereign unity, as the latter Republic of China’s constitution inherited the spirit of the late-Qing counterpart. The late-Qing constitution and constitutional movement reinforced China’s unity, as China in the early-twentieth century, though suffering chaos among regional warlords, remained as a nominally and constitutionally political unity.

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Diving Into William and Mary’s Past: Research Update 1

Finding a Method 

In this past week, I began searching through the Colonial Echo yearbooks for examples of racism, racial insensitivity, or offensive traditions. I am extremely grateful that members of the special collections team at Swem library put in countless hours of work scanning yearbooks to make them available in the digital archives. After searching for a few keywords in the yearbooks and newspapers in an unorganized manner, I decided the best method would be to scan through each publication in a chronological order. As I search through each publication I’ve been keeping a track of locations of offensive images or language. This week, I began looking through yearbooks. Unfortunately,  I have found some examples of racist language and offensive African-American and Native-American caricatures. I even discovered a group of students who performed minstrel shows in blackface at William and Mary.

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Abstract: Incongruence in Jefferson’s Legacy – The Controversy over the Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was constructed along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. between 1938 and 1943. Immediately after the plans for the memorial were first released, there was an uproar from the American people about the design, functionality, and location of the memorial. Historians have argued that Jefferson’s reputation was revived in the 1930s and 1940s, but the inconsistency in the interpretation of Jefferson at the time of the construction of the memorial revealed that Jefferson’s legacy was different to political leaders and the public. The debate over the design and location of the Jefferson Memorial exposed that to the American public, Jefferson’s legacy was as a man of the people, but political elites remembered Jefferson as a hero, representative of American accomplishments and prowess. Through my research, I intend to answer the following questions: How did President Roosevelt, Congress, and the people of Washington discuss the construction of the Jefferson Memorial and what do their discussions reveal about their conception of Thomas Jefferson? What does the reaction to the Jefferson Memorial plans say about the American people’s memory of Jefferson between 1936 and 1945? To answer these questions, I intend to use American newspapers (such as The Washington Post, The Washington Star, St. Louis Dispatch, and The New York Times), The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Congressional documents from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission (TJMC) to investigate the different perspectives on the memorial. The controversy surrounding the construction of the Jefferson Memorial has never been explored by historians, and my project will challenge the idea that Jefferson’s reputation has been consistently favorable since the 1930s.

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