Member Publication, DeMare, Land Wars: The Story of China's Agrarian Revolution

Brian DeMare's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to announce the publication of my book Land Wars: The Story of China’s Agrarian Revolution.  The book came out about six weeks ago with Stanford University Press.  I posted announcements on social media, but I also wanted to make sure I reached out to the H-PRC community; apologies to those of you who have suffered through multiple announcements.    

Land Wars is the first English-language book length study on land reform, the pivotal moment of rural revolution that brought the CCP to power and established the PRC state throughout the countryside.  For far too long we have had to rely on William Hinton’s Fanshen for our understanding of these years.  Fanshen is a brilliantly written book, but as an account of rural revolution it is highly problematic and an-ill fit for the classroom.  When writing Land Wars I used archival sources to demonstrate the diversity of land reform experiences, but also made sure to explore how narratives, including the narrative found in Fanshen, were an essential aspect of rural revolution.  My hope was to create a highly-readable account of rural revolution, one that could be of use in both seminars and larger surveys of modern Chinese history. 

From the back cover:

Mao Zedong’s land reform campaigns comprise a critical moment in modern Chinese history, and were crucial to the rise of the CCP. In Land Wars, Brian DeMare draws on new archival research to offer an updated and comprehensive history of this attempt to fundamentally transform the countryside. Across this vast terrain loyal Maoists dispersed, intending to categorize poor farmers into prescribed social classes, and instigate a revolution that would redistribute the land. To achieve socialist utopia, the Communists imposed and performed a harsh script of peasant liberation through fierce class struggle. While many accounts of the campaigns give false credence to this narrative, DeMare argues that the reality was much more complex and brutal than is commonly understood—while many villagers prospered, there were families torn apart and countless deaths. Uniquely weaving narrative and historical accounts, DeMare powerfully highlights the often devastating role of fiction in determining history. This corrective retelling ultimately sheds new light on the contemporary legacy of land reform, a legacy fraught with inequality and resentment, but also hope.