Summer 2018 - HIST 464 D100

Problems in Modern Asian History (4)

Bandits Pirates in E Asia

Class Number: 5955

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    RCB 6125, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history.



Concepts and methodology of modern Asian history. Selected themes may include revolution, inequality, mass violence, ideology, imperialism, leadership, and the Cold War. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 464 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Bandits and Pirates in East Asia

This course examines the history and politics of banditry and piracy in East Asia. The primary focus is on how outlaws came into being in East Asian societies, and how political regimes and ordinary people negotiated social order with illicit groups and dynamically demarcated the boundaries between lawfulness and illegality. Using the case of China, together with its complex interactions with the neighboring regions, this course discusses several important issues: How did outlaws shape local governance and social relations? How did the state approach organizational crimes, which, in many cases, had close ties with local communities and local officials? How did the organization of outlaws impact the life of ordinary people and how did they affect the ways people maintained their social order? How did the government and local communities use and distort the tales of banditry and piracy, and reuse these tales for various purposes? How did ordinary people act and respond to the epidemic of violence and disorder in their everyday life? China’s experience offers a unique window into the complex dynamics and tensions between the state, local government, and various actors in local society. Students will read selected cases from late imperial and modern China and discuss the evolution of banditry, piracy, and outlaws. We will also use films and literary sources to examine how outlaws shaped ordinary people’s lives and social order.


  • Attendance 10%
  • Class participation 10%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Critical reflection essay 15%
  • Quiz 20%
  • Mid-term examination 30%



 Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang eds., Sea Rovers, Silver, and Samurai: Maritime East Asia in Global History, 1550–1700 (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2016).


William T. Rowe, Crimson Rain: Seven Centuries of Violence in a Chinese County (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

Di Wang, Violence and Order on the Chengdu Plain: The Story of a Secret Brotherhood in Rural China, 1939-1949 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018).

Bradley Camp Davis, Imperial Bandits. Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands (University of Washington Press, 2017).

David Ownby and‎ Mary Somers Heidhues eds., “Secret Societies” Reconsidered: Perspectives on the Social History of Modern South China and Southeast Asia (Routledge, 1994).

Philip A. Kuhn, Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China: Militarization and Social Structure, 1796-1864 (Center for East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1970).

David Robinson, Bandits, Eunuchs and the Son of Heaven: Rebellion and the Economy of Violence in Mid-Ming China (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001).

Elizabeth J. Perry, Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980).

Registrar Notes:

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