Spring 2018 - HIST 479W D100

Contentious Problems in Modern Chinese History (4)

Tiananmen Square

Class Number: 3322

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    AQ 5017, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Jeremy Brown
    1 778 782-4379
    Office: AQ # 6228
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history, and one of HIST 255, 366, or 367.



Examines a contentious aspect of, or period in, modern Chinese history focusing on change, conflict and resistance. For example the transition from revolution to reform, the Tiananmen Square protests, or the Cultural Revolution. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 479W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


Change, Conflict and Resistance in Twentieth-Century China: Tiananmen Square

This course examines the Tiananmen Square protests from multiple perspectives in order to make sense of what happened in China in 1989.  We will begin by addressing the following questions through analysis of primary sources: What did protesters themselves say and write at the time?  Who were they and what did they want?  Why did people protest?  How did Chinese government officials respond?  What was the massacre itself like?  What happened outside of Beijing?  During the second half of the term, we will ask how journalistic, scholarly, and literary interpretations of events help us to understand the Tiananmen protests.

  1. If you do not meet the prerequisites for this course but really want to take it, email jeremy_brown@sfu.ca to request permission to enrol.
  2. For the second time, HIST479 is formally a “Writing (W)” course, but the amount of written work has not changed from previous version of the course when it was offered without the “W.”  The “W” indicates a normal workload for a 400-level history course—it does not mean extra work.


By the end of the term, students should have: (1) gained a better understanding of the advantages and shortcomings of different types of historical sources and scholarly approaches; (2) improved their writing skills through a series of short assignments and through giving and receiving peer feedback; (3) enhanced public knowledge about the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown through an original encyclopedia contribution.


  • Seminar participation 20%
  • Two short essays of 800-1,000 words (each worth 15%) 30%
  • In-class writing exercise, in which you show you completed and thought about the readings assigned for the week 5%
  • Two-part Wikipedia assignment, (original Wikipedia entry, 800 words, 20%; reflection essay of approximately 1,500 words, 15%) 35%
  • Peer reviews, (5% for first round; 5% for second round during presentations of Wikipedia contributions) 10%



Denise Chong, Egg on Mao (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2011 [2009]).

Louisa Lim, The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015 [2014]).

Other readings available electronically. 

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html