Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A life stranger than fiction - The Last Emperor of China

His life story is too strange to be fiction. The last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and thus the last emperor of China, Puyi lived through the fall of his empire, the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Born to a life of unimaginable privilege, he died as a humble assistant gardener under the communist regime.


Some links for while you are watching:

Historical background

No century in all history has seen such rapid changes as our own twentieth century. In all the world, no country has seen more dramatic events in the twentieth century than China, home to a quarter of the world’s population. And in this century of change and revolution in China, perhaps no-one played a more bewildering variety of roles than Pu Yj, who at the age of three was a god but whose happiest days were spent in his old age as a gardener. It is the story of Pu Yi that is told in the film “The Last Emperor”.

China has enjoyed the longest continuous experience of civilised life in the world. Completely remote from the outside world for most of its history, China developed into its own political systems and philosophies, its own methods of farming and manufacturing, its own art and poetry. These are among the most widely admired wherever they are known.

China has suffered, however, from geography and climate. Although an enormous country when viewed on a map, China is made up of several distinct regions, not all of them helpful to human life. In the west and north the country is mountainous and largely barren; over half of China’s land is inhospitable in the extreme. Almost all of China’s population is situated in the east and south of the country, and in particular on the Pacific coast and along the great river valleys. As Chinese agriculture is dependent on the crops grown in these valleys, the population is at the mercy of the elements. When the Yangtze River floods, or when there is a serious drought, China’s food supply is mercilessly cut down. Only recently have Chinese governments successfully countered these periodic disasters.

In the seventeenth century, China was conquered by a fierce warrior people from the north, the Manchus. In 1644, the last native Chinese emperor surrendered and committed suicide, and a new dynasty, the Qing, took over the running of the largest empire on Earth. Although the early Manchu emperors continued their expansion, so that China grew into its greatest ever size, at the same time the Chinese population began to grow alarmingly. With around three hundred million mouths to feed by the year 1880, China was especially vulnerable to any natural disaster.

In the nineteenth century China became the focus of attention for several western countries, as well as of her powerful neighbours Russia and Japan. The European nations wanted to open China up to their traders and missionaries; with such a huge population, China was potentially the largest market in the world as well as containing the largest single population of ‘heathens’. The efforts of China’s Qing dynasty rulers to keep the Europeans at bay proved fruitless, and the emperors’ grip on the government of the country grew feebler as the century wore on.

In mid-century the empire was seriously weakened by the ‘Opium Wars’ against the western countries, and by the Taiping Rebellion of 1850-64, which was at least partly based on western ideas. And from 1861 onwards the empire was governed by the Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi (aka Cixi) who was determined to ignore all evidence of the growing power of the ‘foreign devils’. The historian Harrison Salisbury describes Tzu-Hsi like this:

“The Empress Dowager possessed no redeeming quality. There was no crime she did not commission or commit. Poison and murder were everyday weapons. Her mind was choked with superstition. Her ignorance had no limit; in cunning she was supreme.”

With Tzu-Hsi as effective ruler, those Chinese who insisted that the empire must reform itself were forced to think of revolution. To the shame of patriotic Chinese, Westerners and Japanese were granted special privileges denied to natives; land was surrendered to Russia, to Japan and to France. There seemed no humiliation to which the ‘Celestial Empire’ was not a victim.

Pu Yi

In 1908 the Emperor Kuang-Hsu died, quite probably poisoned by the Empress Dowager. In his place Tzu-Hsi chose to raise a three year old boy, Pu Yi, the late emperor’s nephew. So began one of the century s strangest stories. For over three years, until the collapse of the empire in 1911, Pu Yi was worshipped as the ‘Son of Heaven’ and ‘The Lord of Ten Thousand Years’. He was described by the man who later became his tutor, Sir Reginald Johnston, as “the loneliest boy on Earth”.

For twelve years, as the lonely boy grew into a young man, he was a prisoner inside the Forbidden City. Although no longer emperor, he was still worshipped by the hundreds of courtiers who served him. Outside the sixty-foot thick walls, China was undergoing revolutionary changes that would wash over the whole world, hut Pu Yi knew nothing of them. Even when he was finally forced to leave the Forbidden City, and to flee Beijing in 1924, he still led an impossibly protected life, devoted entirely to his own pleasures.

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, and Pu Yi accepted the Japanese invitation to become emperor - but emperor without power, a puppet-emperor - of the new state of ‘Manchukuo’.

When Manchukuo was overrun by the Soviet Union in 1945, Pu Yi was captured and put on trial for war-crimes. However, instead of facing the death penalty that he expected, Pu Yi was returned first to the Soviet Union and then, in 1950, to the newly communist Peoples’ Republic of China. He served nine years in prison, where he slowly learned to adjust to his new life; in effect he had to learn to be an independent person, a citizen, for the first time. He was released from prison in 1959, and in 1960 took up work as a gardener in Beijing. He died of cancer in 1967.

Events during Pu Yi’s lifetime

  • 1906 - When Pu Yi was born, the Chinese Empire was in a state of decay. The Dowager Empress was powerless against the greed and determination of the Western countries.
  • 1908 Pu Yi was made Emperor, the last of the Qing dynasty. Shortly afterwards, Tzu-Hsi died.
  • 1911 - The ‘Double Ten’. On October 10th a rebellion began which spread across the empire and brought about the downfall of the Qing dynasty.
  • 1912 On January 1st the new Republic of China was born. Although Dr. Sun Yat- Sen’s Nationalists hoped to set up a system of government based on their three principles of Nationalism, Socialism and Democracy, it was military power that had destroyed the Empire and it was military power that ruled the republic. The warlord Yuan Shih-kai drove Sun out of China and became effective dictator. China had a new emperor in all but name.
  • 1915 Japan took advantage of the war in Europe to try to win influence in China. The Japanese government’s Twenty-One demands infuriated the Chinese people, and there were many protests, but Yuan gave way to most of them for fear of the Japanese army.
  • 1916 Yuan died in June, and China collapsed into anarchy. There was no central government and the country fell into the hands of warlords and bandits. Many of these local rulers depended on Western support, and so increased the country’s subservience to Europe.
  • 1923 - Two political groups tried to re-unite China under their own control, the Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party. With the support of the new communist government in Russia, the CCP joined with the Guomindang to defeat the warlords, and the two parties worked together from 1922 to 1927.
  • 1927 Guomindang leader Jiang Kai-Shek massacred thousands of Communists in Shanghai; the survivors fled inland to Kiangsi-Hunan.
  • 1928 - Jiang Kai-Shek was effective ruIer of China. Although some warlords still held sway in their regions, none was strong enough to challenge Jiang’s authority.
  • 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria, China’s northernmost province and the ancestral home of the Manchu dynasty. Manchuria was a fertile region and was also rich in iron and coal.
  • 1934 The Japanese government made Pu Yi emperor of the puppet state of Manchukuo. The Guomindang did not believe that they were strong enough to defeat the Japanese, and they concentrated their efforts on trying to crush the CCP.
  • 1934-5 - Mao Zedong led his Communists on an amazing six thousand mile ‘Long March’ to escape the Guomindang armies.
  • 1937 - Japan invaded China. The CCP showed itself to be more prepared than the Guomindang to offer resistance. By 1942, Japan controlled most of China’s coastline.
  • 1945 - In August, the USA dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II and also the Japanese war against China. The CCP and the Guomindang now fought each other for the control of the newly-liberated country.
  • 1949 - The CCP were better organised and more determined, and they grew more popular by the week. Jiang Kai-Shek fled to the island of Formosa and on October 1st Mao Zedong announced the creation of The Peoples’ Republic of China.
Source: www.filmeducation.org/pdf/film/LastEmperor.pdf

Pu Yi in Manchukuo - puppet-emperor or collaborator? Some primary sources about Pu Yi

“I thought: if I got along with the Japanese they might even help me recover my Imperial title. Looking on the bright side, being Chief Executive seemed to be not a humiliation, but a step towards the Imperial Throne.”
Pu Yi: From Emperor to Citizen (1964)

“We had strong reason to believe that delegates representing public bodies and associations which left statements with us had previously obtained Japanese approval. In fact, in many cases, people who had done so informed us afterwards that what they had written had been substantially revised by the Japanese and were not to be taken as an expression of their real feelings.”
From a note by Lord Lytton, who led a League of Nations Commission investigating the Japanese presence in Manchuria. The Commission concluded that Japan should withdraw its troops from Manchuria and that the province should be governed by an international agency.

Manchukuo “was founded on 1 March 1932 by the thirty million people of Manchukua, who, by their efforts and the unfailing co-operation of their friendly neighbour. Japan, finally overcame all obstacles, both internal and external and liberated themselves from the militarist regime from which they had suffered for many years.
From an article written by the Manchukuo Information Department, run by the Japanese, 1932.

“Mirror-like is the ocean as the traveller embarks on the long voyage to the Land of the Rising Sun I
Enduring is the handclasp between Japan and Manchukuo / May the eternal peace in the far east be assured.”
Poem written by Pu Yi on the occasion of his state visit to Japan in 1935.

“I had put my head in the tiger’s mouth.”
Pu Yi at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial

“I did not have my hand, I did not have my mouth... If I had told Lord Lytton the truth, I would have been murdered right after the commission had left Manchuria.”
Pu Yi at the War Crimes Trial.

“Pu Yi’s performance in the box was bravura. Until his first public appearance, he had been derided by observers as slow-witted, if not mentally retarded, a cardboard figure. On the stand, however, Pu Yi proved himself wily, the master of cunning, guile and downright deceit.”
From Arnold Brackman: The Other Nuremberg, The Untold Story of The War Crimes Trials, (1987)

“Pu Yi (showed himself) to be a consistent, self-assured liar, prepared to go to any lengths to save his skin.”
From Edward Behr: The Last Emperor (1987)

  1. How valuable are sources A and D to historians trying to understand Pu Yi’s role as emperor of Manchukuo ?
  2. Read sources E-H. How much value should we attach to Pu Yi’s statements to the War Crimes Trial ?
  3. How might you argue that sources A and D are more valuable to the historian than sources E and F ?
  4. Read sources B and C. What do these sources tell you about the relationship between Japan and Manchukuo ?
  5. What differences would a historian recognise between sources A-F on the one hand, and sources G and H on the other?
  6. a) What impression of Pu Yi is given in these sources ? b)Does the film confirm this impression, or contradict it ?


Written by Geoff Macdonald Faculty of Humanities, Holland Park School, London.

Produced for Columbia Pictures by Ian Wall and Peter Scott

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Practices of WW1

Use the handout to answer the quiz questions here: tiny.cc/pracww1
You need to have formulated the perfect answer before class on Monday (24th of March)

Other practices homework:

Central themes of this assignment (following Paper 2, Topic 1 guidelines),
  • Nature of 20th century wars
  • Technological developments, tactics and strategies, air, land and sea
  • Home front: economic and social impact (including changes in the role and status of women)
  • Resistance and revolutionary movements
Topics you will investigate in teams of two:
  1. The role of air power in WWI. Significant use of the technology, how it changed warfare, who had the better technology, one case study battle.
  2. How technological developments (in weapons) changed the nature of warfare during WWI. Significant use of the technology (i.e. tanks, guns, other weapons), how it changed warfare, who had the better technology, one case study battle.
  3. How naval warfare was used in WWI. Significant use of the technology, how it changed warfare, who had the better technology, one case study battle.
  4. The contribution made towards the war effort by civilians on the home front and how WWI affected the role and status of women on the home front
  5. The economic and social impact of the war on Germany and one other country.
  6. Effect of Russian Revolution on the course of the war. Black Hand (Thank you Jonah and Luan!)

Develop a TEAC framework
Each team will develop a detailed essay/paragraph plans using 4 x TEAC paragraphs frameworks. Use past exam questions or develop your own hybrid questions based upon past questions. You should also use the markschemes to guide you.

Further clarification:
So you will end up with having researched 4 aspects of your topic, and for each of those aspects you have created a TEAC paragraph/essay structure which starts with a clearly opinionated and analytical, thematic (if possible) topic sentence. This will be followed by high quality E & A (or A & E). Finish off with a good conclusion. Base it on past questions or make up your own.

Info on TEAC: http://yesibhistory2015.blogspot.com.au/p/essay-writing.html

Use the resources in the WW1 Google Drive folder and use your textbook

Air > Caitlin + Jasmine
Tech > Seb + Katie
Naval > Jack G + Damon
Women & Homefront > Georgia + Moira
Eco & Social > Sumeyya & Jack
Russ Rev & Terrorists and Resistance > Luan + Jonah

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Historians' Dinner Party

Hand in your A4 sheet about your historian. I will make copies for everyone. Take all the 12 sheets home and read them at home.

Start sorting them out at home and create your own harmonious seating plan.
  • It is important you include some key quotes by your historian on your A4. 
  • Your sheet has to be of the highest quality. Interim reports are due soon and I will take the quality of your sheet into account. 
  • Don’t just rely on the information in the handout. You need to do additional research. See the Google Drive (ww1 folder), Google Scholar etc. Your textbook will also have some information on some historians. 
On Monday you will also get your essays back.

No class, opening ceremony

Have the seating plans done, compare and contrast seating plans. We will do some other WW1 related content.

Thursday: Come to S16 at community time for the Dinner party. You will BE the historian.
While the pizza is certainly a nice extra, the key aim of this dinner party is to understand the different and broad historical interpretations in the WW1 debate. Understanding this will be vital for future essays and your exam.

  1. Annika Mombauer Jasmine
  2. Gordon Martel Georgia
  3. AJP Taylor Luan
  4. Sydney Bradshaw Fay Katie
  5. Fritz Fischer Moira
  6. Paul Kennedy Jonah
  7. Christopher Clark Seb
  8. Richard Evans Sumeyya
  9. Max Hastings Jack G
  10. Gary Sheffield Damon
  11. Gerhard Ritter Jack B
  12. Margaret MacMillan Caitlin

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The International Council Debate

Homework again for Wednesday

You need to have at least one A4 page which you will share with the class AFTER the debate:
  • War aims
  • Reasons why you entered the war
  • Reasons why your country is NOT to blame for WW1
  • Have questions ready for other countries
  • YOU are the expert on your country!
Every country will get ‘the floor’ for a few minutes to present your case.

  • UK: Moira and Caitlin
  • Russia: Sumeyya and Georgia
  • Germany: Katie and Jasmine
  • France: Luan and Seb
  • Italy and Serbia: Jack and Jack
  • Austria-Hungary: Damon and Jonah

You can bring some food. You can bring country specific props, head dress or anything else.

Ms. V will be the arbiter.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Crises pre-1914

On Monday, we will be looking at all the crises and dramas that occurred before war broke out in 1914.
In preparation, your homework for Monday is as follows:

Key crises:
  1. 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War (p12)
  2. Boer war (1899 – 1900) p34
  3. German Navy build up (1900) ppt
  4. Anglo Japanese treaty (1902) p37
  5. Dreadnought (1905) ppt
  6. First Moroccan crisis (1905) p41
  7. Russo-Japanese war (1905) p37
  8. Bosnian Crisis (1908) ppt / p47
  9. Balkan wars (1912 – 1913) p48

For each:
  • Who, What, Where, Why? (Dot points)
  • Consequences for international relations (Did it make tension/war more or less likely?)
  • 1 sentence (or very short) summary

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Welcome to IB History

Welcome to IB History:

Keys to success:
  • Learn smart and efficiently
  • Be an active reader (take notes, paraphrase)
  • Learn from each essay
  • Look after each other; it's a group effort
  • Be tech savvy
A suggestion for setting up the folder structure on your computer:

  • Folder: CPE, Sub folders: WW1, WW2, Chinese Civ War.
  • Folder: IB admin (for general handouts, skills booklets, course overview etc)


Read Chapter 1 and write down the meaning of these words:

Imperialism, nationalism, militarism, Social Darwinism, dreadnought, fascism, National Socialism, Weltpolitik, Mitteleuropa, Lebensraum, Central Powers, Prussia, Triple Entente, appeasement, total war, Bolshevism, Great Depression.

Create a chart for these 8 countries: France, Great Britain, Russia, USA, A-H, Germany, Japan, Ottoman Empire. For each, briefly complete the following:
  • Colonial Territories 
  • Nationalism? Based on what? (or not?)
  • Form of government
  • Strong or weak military
  • Friend and foes
  • Economics
  • Anything else...
How are you going to do this homework? You can do it in your workbook, on your computer or you can collaborate on Google Docs.