100 books like The Blacks of Premodern China

By Don J. Wyatt,

Here are 100 books that The Blacks of Premodern China fans have personally recommended if you like The Blacks of Premodern China. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art

Geraldine Heng Author Of The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages

From my list on race before the modern era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m that infamous medievalist who wrote the big book on medieval race. It took 20 years of thinking and research, and a whole lot of writing, but now people are convinced that there was, indeed, such a thing as race and racism between the 11th and 15th centuries in the West (aka Christendom/Europe). I'm Perceval Professor of English and Comparative Literature, with a joint appointment in Middle Eastern studies and Women’s studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Geraldine's book list on race before the modern era

Geraldine Heng Why did Geraldine love this book?

The Image of the Black in Western Art is a multi-volume series that extends from antiquity to the modern era, and it’s famous for its extraordinary images.  This series now has an excellent additional volume—on how Black peoples were portrayed in African, Middle Eastern, and Asian art.  The images from these non-Western regions of the world are incomparable, and the accompanying essays take us all the way from the beginnings to the present day. 

By David Bindman, Suzanne Preston Blier, Henry Louis Gates

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art asks how the black figure was depicted by artists from the non-Western world. Beginning with ancient Egypt-positioned properly as part of African history-this volume focuses on the figure of the black as rendered by artists from Africa, East Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. The aesthetic traditions illustrated here are as diverse as the political and social histories of these regions. From Igbo Mbari sculptures to modern photography from Mali, from Indian miniatures to Japanese prints, African and Asian artists portrayed the black body in ways distinct from the European tradition,…


Book cover of Race: Antiquity and Its Legacy

Geraldine Heng Author Of The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages

From my list on race before the modern era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m that infamous medievalist who wrote the big book on medieval race. It took 20 years of thinking and research, and a whole lot of writing, but now people are convinced that there was, indeed, such a thing as race and racism between the 11th and 15th centuries in the West (aka Christendom/Europe). I'm Perceval Professor of English and Comparative Literature, with a joint appointment in Middle Eastern studies and Women’s studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Geraldine's book list on race before the modern era

Geraldine Heng Why did Geraldine love this book?

If you’re curious about what the ancient Greeks and Romans thought about their neighbors—Persians, Egyptians, etc.— you’ll want to read this book from cover to cover.  It’s smart, learned, and doesn’t shy away from hard truths.  After you read it, you’ll also want to read Benjamin Isaac’s The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, David M. Goldenberg’s The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and The Origins of Racism in the West, edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac, and Joseph Ziegler.

By Denise Eileen McCoskey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Race as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do different cultures think about race? In the modern era, racial distinctiveness has been assessed primarily in terms of a person's physical appearance. But it was not always so. As Denise McCoskey shows, the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use skin colour as the basis for categorising ethnic disparity. The colour of one's skin lies at the foundation of racial variability today because it was used during the heyday of European exploration and colonialism to construct a hierarchy of civilizations and then justify slavery and other forms of economic exploitation. Assumptions about race thus have to take into…


Book cover of Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity

Geraldine Heng Author Of The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages

From my list on race before the modern era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m that infamous medievalist who wrote the big book on medieval race. It took 20 years of thinking and research, and a whole lot of writing, but now people are convinced that there was, indeed, such a thing as race and racism between the 11th and 15th centuries in the West (aka Christendom/Europe). I'm Perceval Professor of English and Comparative Literature, with a joint appointment in Middle Eastern studies and Women’s studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Geraldine's book list on race before the modern era

Geraldine Heng Why did Geraldine love this book?

In the European Middle Ages—the millennium-long era in the West after antiquity and before the modern period—Christianity was the first and last authority for all sources of knowledge and forms of reasoning.  This important book shows in great detail how medieval Christian theology produced arguments and rationales that enabled racism against Jews during the centuries of the long medieval period.

By M. Lindsay Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity, M. Lindsay Kaplan expands the study of the history of racism through an analysis of the Christian concept of Jewish hereditary inferiority. Imagined as a figural slavery, this idea anticipates modern racial ideologies in creating a status of permanent, inherent subordination. Unlike other studies of early forms of racism, this book places theological discourses at the center of its analysis. It traces an
intellectual history of the Christian doctrine of servitus Judaeorum, or Jewish enslavement, imposed as punishment for the crucifixion. This concept of hereditary inferiority, formulated in patristic and medieval exegesis through the…


Book cover of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race

Geraldine Heng Author Of The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages

From my list on race before the modern era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m that infamous medievalist who wrote the big book on medieval race. It took 20 years of thinking and research, and a whole lot of writing, but now people are convinced that there was, indeed, such a thing as race and racism between the 11th and 15th centuries in the West (aka Christendom/Europe). I'm Perceval Professor of English and Comparative Literature, with a joint appointment in Middle Eastern studies and Women’s studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Geraldine's book list on race before the modern era

Geraldine Heng Why did Geraldine love this book?

You’ll be dazzled by the brilliance of this author, and the beauty of his writing.  The book is impossible to summarize, but if you want to understand how the spread of a specifically Christian imagination around the world produces a racial grid, racial thinking, and racism, this book is indispensable.  Whether you’re interested in modern race, or race in all the long centuries before, you’ll come away with a better understanding of how the spread of the Christian religion has produced race and racisms.

By Willie James Jennings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Christian Imagination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A ground-breaking account of the potential and failures of Christianity since the colonialist period-winner of the 2015 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion and of an American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence

"Detailing the nooks and crannies of white supremacist Christianity, The Christian Imagination allows not only for greater sophistication when considering race and theology. It also points to possible cures to the disease so elegantly diagnosed."-Edward J. Blum, Journal of Religion

"[A] theological masterpiece."--Chris Smith, Englewood Review of Books

Why has Christianity, a religion premised upon neighborly love, failed in its attempts to heal social divisions? In this ambitious…


Book cover of China and Africa: The New Era

Pádraig Carmody Author Of Africa's Shadow Rise: China and the Mirage of African Economic Development

From my list on China’s global and African strategies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in China-Africa relations fifteen years ago when I realised that the rise of the former was going to have major and long-lasting effects on the politics and economics of the continent. In a sense, the rising role of China in Africa foretold its rise to global power and influence. Since then I have been fascinated by the ways in which China has restructured, or been involved in the restructuring, of African economies and politics and the ways in which that country’s global strategies and roles have continued to evolve and their impacts. I have written several books on the impacts of emerging powers in Africa.

Pádraig's book list on China’s global and African strategies

Pádraig Carmody Why did Pádraig love this book?

The ascent to power of Xi Jinxing in China in 2013 heralded a new era in China’s overseas engagements and in its domestic politics and economic policy; what Elizabeth Economy has called the “third revolution.” This fascinating book by Large brings the story of China’s engagements in Africa up to date. It is packed with fascinating details and analysis and shows how China’s interests on the continent are shifting from being primarily economic to being more geopolitical. It is a detailed and nuanced analysis of the changed nature of relations. 

By Daniel Large,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China and Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

China has gone from being a marginal to a leading power in Africa in just over two decades. Its striking ascendancy in the continent is commonly thought to have been primarily driven by economic interests, especially resources like oil. This book argues instead that politics defines the 'new era' of China-Africa relations, and examines the importance of politics across a range of areas, from foreign policy to debt, development and the Xi Jinping incarnation of the China model.

Going beyond superficial depictions of China's engagement as predatory or benign, this book explores how Africa is - and isn't - integral…


Book cover of Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa

Pádraig Carmody Author Of Africa's Shadow Rise: China and the Mirage of African Economic Development

From my list on China’s global and African strategies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in China-Africa relations fifteen years ago when I realised that the rise of the former was going to have major and long-lasting effects on the politics and economics of the continent. In a sense, the rising role of China in Africa foretold its rise to global power and influence. Since then I have been fascinated by the ways in which China has restructured, or been involved in the restructuring, of African economies and politics and the ways in which that country’s global strategies and roles have continued to evolve and their impacts. I have written several books on the impacts of emerging powers in Africa.

Pádraig's book list on China’s global and African strategies

Pádraig Carmody Why did Pádraig love this book?

Africa has been a test-bed for China’s new foreign economic policy since the early 2000s. This is the seminal, and at the time definitive, treatment of Chinese engagement on the continent. Brautigam’s knowledge of Sino-African relations is unrivalled and her myth-busting approach makes for compelling and enlightening reading. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the nature of Sino-African relations. 

By Deborah Brautigam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragon's Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is China a rogue donor, as some media pundits suggest? Or is China helping the developing world pave a pathway out of poverty, as the Chinese claim? In the last few years, China's aid program has leapt out of the shadows. Media reports about huge aid packages, support for pariah regimes, regiments of Chinese labor, and the ruthless exploitation of workers and natural resources in some of the poorest countries in the world sparked fierce debates. These debates,
however, took place with very few hard facts. China's tradition of secrecy about its aid fueled rumors and speculation, making it difficult…


Book cover of The Sulu Zone, 1768-1898: The Dynamics of External Trade, Slavery and Ethnicity in the Transformation of a Southeast Asian Maritime State

Ulbe Bosma Author Of The Making of a Periphery: How Island Southeast Asia Became a Mass Exporter of Labor

From my list on slavery in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find it crucially important that we acknowledge that slavery is a global phenomenon that still exists this very day. Dutch historians like me have an obligation to show that the Dutch East India Company, called the world’s first multinational, was a major slave trader and employer of slavery. I am also personally involved in this endeavour as I am one of the leaders of the “Exploring the Slave Trade in Asia” project, an international consortium that brings together knowledge on this subject, and is currently a slave trade in Asia database.

Ulbe's book list on slavery in Asia

Ulbe Bosma Why did Ulbe love this book?

This book explains how a powerful sultanate located on an archipel in the South China Sea maintained its independence until the very end of the nineteenth century. Being the centre of a ferocious slave-raiding network, it played a pivotal role in supplying the slave labour for commodity production both for China and the West. Warren’s book links an upsurge of slave raiding in Southeast Asia at the end of the eighteenth century with imperial expansion of the West and the economic resurrection of China. It questions the dominant perception that piracy and slavery in Asia were antithetical to economic growth.

I find Warren’s thesis tremendously valuable to understand processes of globalisation and a source of inspiration for my own research and teaching on slavery in the Indonesian archipelago in the nineteenth century. It also opened my eyes to the fact that the upsurge of slave-raiding was fed by illicit arms…

By James F. Warren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sulu Zone, 1768-1898 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1981, ""The Sulu Zone"" has become a classic in the field of Southeast Asian History. The book deals with a fascinating geographical, cultural and historical ""border zone"" centred on the Sulu and Celebes Seas between 1768 and 1898, and its complex interactions with China and the West. The author examines the social and cultural forces generated within the Sulu Sultanate by the China trade, namely the advent of organized, long distance maritime slave raiding and the assimilation of captives on a hitherto unprecedented scale into a traditional Malayo-Muslim social system.How entangled commodities, trajectories of tastes, and patterns…


Book cover of Monkey Hunting

Julia Schiavone Camacho Author Of Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960

From my list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in a Mexican-Italian family, I grew up traveling across the Arizona-Sonora borderlands to visit my extended family. As a kid, I took for granted movement across boundaries and cultural and racial mixture, but eventually, I came to see it framed my experience and outlook. In researching the Chinese in northern Mexico, I learned that Mexican women and Chinese-Mexican children followed their expelled men, whether by force or choice, and I became enthralled. I had to find out how these families fared after crossing not just borders but oceans. My passion for reading about how the long presence of Asians in the Americas complicates our understanding of history has only deepened.

Julia's book list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories

Julia Schiavone Camacho Why did Julia love this book?

I have read this book more than once and each time have found myself pulled into the life of the main character, a Chinese contract laborer, and his story, which spans several generations, set across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The novel features an Afro-Chino Cuban family and shows how they become deeply part of Cuba. It also shows how the descendants of the mixed-race couple face trials in New York City and Vietnam, depicting complexities of race, gender, family, and heritage with beautiful, painful detail and emotion.

By Cristina García,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Monkey Hunting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this deeply stirring novel, acclaimed author Cristina García follows one extraordinary family through four generations, from China to Cuba to America. Wonderfully evocative of time and place, rendered in the lyrical prose that is García’s hallmark, Monkey Hunting is an emotionally resonant tale of immigration, assimilation, and the prevailing integrity of self.


Book cover of Black Legend: The Many Lives of Raúl Grigera and the Power of Racial Storytelling in Argentina

Alex Borucki Author Of From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Río de la Plata

From my list on Black history in Argentina and Uruguay.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of the slave trade and slavery in the Rio de la Plata region (today’s Argentina and Uruguay) who then turned to the study of the traffic of captive Africans in the whole Spanish Americas. Yet, my love remains in the Rio de la Plata, what I call the “cold Caribbean.” Exciting books on the history of Africans and their descendants examine this region within the framework of Atlantic History, racial capitalism, gender, and the connections between twentieth-century Black culture and politics. As these recommendations are limited to English-language books, readers should note that much more has been published on this subject in Spanish and Portuguese.

Alex's book list on Black history in Argentina and Uruguay

Alex Borucki Why did Alex love this book?

Paulina Alberto wrote a binge-reading biography of Raúl Grigera, a Black legend of Buenos Aires during the golden age of tango. While Alberto reconstructs the family’s history of Grigera since the times of slavery in early nineteenth-century Argentina, the narrative arc of the book is the unequal power to control narratives about the self, which affected Grigera and other Black men and women who suffered the dominant and racist narratives about Blackness in Argentina, particularly on the disappearance of Afro-Argentines. This book illustrates the biographical turn in African Diaspora Studies combined with an exquisite interdisciplinary approach, which Alberto employs in her examination of “racial stories” as a methodology.

By Paulina L. Alberto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrities live their lives in constant dialogue with stories about them. But when these stories are shaped by durable racist myths, they wield undue power to ruin lives and obliterate communities. Black Legend is the haunting story of an Afro-Argentine, Raul Grigera ('el negro Raul'), who in the early 1900s audaciously fashioned himself into an alluring Black icon of Buenos Aires' bohemian nightlife, only to have defamatory storytellers unmake him. In this gripping history, Paulina Alberto exposes the destructive power of racial storytelling and narrates a new history of Black Argentina and Argentine Blackness across two centuries. With the extraordinary…


Book cover of A Floating Life: The Adventures of Li Po: A Historical Novel

Yun Rou Author Of The Monk of Park Avenue: A Modern Daoist Odyssey

From my list on better understanding and appreciating China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born to privilege in Manhattan. A seeker from the get-go, I perpetually yearned to see below the surface of the pond and understand what lay beneath and how the world really works. Not connecting with Western philosophy, religion, or culture, I turned to the wisdom of the East at a young age. I stayed the course through decades of training in Chinese martial arts, eventually reached some understanding of them, and realized my spiritual ambitions when I was ordained a Daoist monk in China in an official government ceremony. I write about China then and now and teach meditation and tai chi around the world. 

Yun's book list on better understanding and appreciating China

Yun Rou Why did Yun love this book?

This novelized biography of a poet some consider China’s greatest pleases me over and over again. Rendering Li Po (sometimes Li Bai) as a libertine living on a barge, drinking too much and partaking with gusto in the pleasures of the flesh at the red-candle district near which he moors, really helps bring alive the great man’s life and work. There’s also a bit about his relationship with Du Fu, more of a straight arrow. Those two, along with Wang Wei really offer a picture of the Daoist life I so adore and the feeling of watching the world spin out of control in war but also the peace and solitude of a mountain retreat.

By Simon Elegant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Floating Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The studious young son of a vintner takes down the life and exploits of Li Po, China's legendary poet, as the poet recalls his outlandish adventures


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