Margaret Mih Tillman
(Columbia University Press, 2018)
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A widespread conviction in the need to rescue China’s children took hold in the early twentieth century. Amid political upheaval and natural disasters, neglected or abandoned children became a humanitarian focal point for Sino-Western cooperation and intervention in family life. Chinese academics and officials sought new scientific measures, educational institutions, and social reforms to improve children’s welfare. Successive regimes encouraged teachers to shape children into Qing subjects, Nationalist citizens, or Communist comrades.
In Raising China’s Revolutionaries, Margaret Mih Tillman offers a novel perspective on the political and scientific dimensions of experiments with early childhood education from the early Republican period through the first decade of the People’s Republic. She traces transnational advocacy for child welfare and education, examining Christian missionaries, philanthropists, and the role of international relief during World War II. Tillman provides in-depth analysis of similarities and differences between Nationalist and Communist policy and cultural notions of childhood. While both Nationalist and Communist regimes drew on preschool institutions to mobilize the workforce and shape children’s political subjectivity, the Communist regime rejected the Nationalists’ commitment to the modern, bourgeois family. With new insights into the roles of experts, the cultural politics of fundraising, and child welfare as a form of international exchange, Raising China’s Revolutionaries is an important work of institutional and transnational history that illuminates the evolution of modern concepts of childhood in China.
“Since the late Qing there had been a general belief among Chinese revolutionaries and reformers that China’s modernization must begin with the construction of a modern childhood. As a result, a great variety of ideas and institutions were proposed and developed in the realm of child education from the 1930s to the 1950s. This book, Raising China’s Revolutionaries, is a rigorous and vivid account of this important historical development based on the author’s comprehensive and penetrating study of the numerous archival and other primary sources as well as her personal experiences as a visiting preschooler in the Chinese system.”
– Ying-shih Yu, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University
Margaret Mih Tillman is assistant professor of history at Purdue University