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While access to library and archival collections in mainland China remains unclear due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and increasing government scrutiny, past experiences in Chinese archives are still relevant for scholars going forward, in the event that the People’s Republic of China reopens the doors to these collections. In surveying the digital, print publication, and manuscript collections pertaining to the Chinese history of World War ii, this article shows how access to new kinds of sources redefined the pre-pandemic state of the field. In particular, curated volumes that emphasized perspectives from the Chinese Communist Party and leftist intellectuals gradually have given way to a more representative collection of the documentary evidence, and Taiwanese collections continue to be important to the historiography. The article begins with coverage of well-known guides and published catalogues of mainland and Taiwanese collections. It then covers some military documents that Chinese scholars occasionally have referenced. It emphasizes the richness of accessible material on the social and cultural history of the war era as part of a call to colleagues and future students to expand the scope of what is traditionally thought to be “military history.” There is ample opportunity for major interventions into our understanding of wartime China, which shaped the course of modern history overall, and major innovations in historiography that scholars usually make from the dusty reading rooms of the libraries and archives.

Open Access
In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations