History Buzz January 25, 2012: Kenneth Swopes: Ball State professor recalls his sabbatical in China & research on Ming Dynasty

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Ball State professor recalls his sabbatical in China

Source: BS Daily News, 1-25-12

Swopes.JPGDN PHOTO EMMA FLYNN

Kenneth Swopes, associate professor of history explains his research about the Ming dynasty while pointing out relics that have helped him with his research. He talked about his findings to students and other professors Tuesday afternoon in the Burkhart building.

A historian of late imperial and northeast Asian military history presented the culmination of his sabbatical findings to a room full of students and colleagues Wednesday afternoon.

Kenneth Swope, associate professor of history, gave students and fellow professors the opportunity to learn more about the Ming Dynasty.

Swope’s research was a self-described overview of the book he wrote, which will be published at the end of this year.

Swope had planned to have the book published sooner, but by “happy coincidence,” he ran into the problem of having more primary sources than he had hoped for while on sabbatical in China.

“A lot of Chinese primary documents out of the archives in Beijing or Nanjing — where the two main archives are — are still published in hardcopy,” Swope said. “They’re not up on the internet or published digitally.”

One collection Swope used for his research was a collection of 102 volumes, about 500 pages each, of copies of handwritten documents from the Ming Dynasty.

The collection is estimated at $20,000-$25,000.

Swope said he read about 48 of the volumes for his sabbatical research.

“With reduced budgets and things, universities libraries aren’t able to buy these things,” Swope said. “So you still have to go there to do research.”

The book, entitled “The Military Collapse of China’s Ming Dynasty,” is the result of several years of work and research by Swope.

Beginning with an introduction from department chair Kevin Smith, Swope talked about the collapse of the Ming dynasty.

Attributing the fall of the Ming Dynasty to Emperor Wanli, Swope made a connection between the dynasty and American politics.

Swope provided reasons for the fall of the ancient power with significant reasons being economic and political factors.

“The first problem was economics, money problems,” Swope said. “Again, this is something we can identify with given the fiscal problems of our own government.”

With the Ming Dynasty, they had large amounts of physical wealth and were far more advanced than many other places in the world because their wealth had increased due to the finding of America.

Citing land taxes as the base of revenue, Swope connected the rich of the Ming Dynasty to part of the country’s economic problems.

“The rich found ways to dodge taxes,” Swope said. “The upper one percent of the Ming Dynasty were dodging all the taxes.”

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