VCE History. Revolutions - units 3 & 4

This guide identifies resources relevant to the VCE History - Revolutions units

Chinese Revolution

Not to be confused with the Revolution of 1911, the Chinese Revolution of 1949 is sometimes known as the Chinese Communist Revolution or the Chinese People's War of Liberation. The revolution culminated in the creation of the People's Repulic of China in 1949, as declared by Mao Zedong. It is important to be aware of the social and political climate before the Revolution, which can help shine a light on the causes of the conflict; as well as the societal conditions in the aftermath of Revolution.

Area of study 1 - Causes - spans the period from the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912 to the Communist victory in the Civil war in October 1949. Area of study 2 - Consequences - covers the period from October 1949 up to 1976.

For simple, broad overviews of the Russian Revolution try the Oxford Reference: History database. Alpha History also has a very useful Chinese Revolution timeline.


The Library has a number of ebooks considering issues around the communist revolution in China. We also subscribe to a wide range of scholarly journals. Both ebooks and online journals that can be accessed using your State Library Victoria membership.

Before you begin a search of our catalogue, make sure to read the Catalogue tab of this guide for a basic understanding of how to search.

To search our ebook collection, set the drop-down menu to the right of the search box to 'ebooks'. You can search your keywords anywhere in the record, or search more specifically within the subject as we have done in the example below:

eBook catalogue search

Note that some of our ebooks can only be read onsite at the Library, either on one of our bookable public PCs, or on your own device connected to our wifi.

Suggested subject headings 

If you find a title that is particularly useful you can also search for similar books by clicking on the Subjects linked under the Details heading of the record. Remember to also search for works on China in the period before the Revolution for context.

Some eBooks from our collection


The Library subscribes to a wide range of databases, most of which you can view from home with your free SLV membership

Filter the database list by subject to see all of our History databases or Historic Newspaper databases.

Recommended databases

Once you have chosen a database, you will need to search it by keyword. Use Simple or Basic Search for specific information, or consider Advanced Search when searching several interrelated concepts. Remember that you can filter your results by the kind of resource, or by the year of publication. 

Consider doing the following:

  • remove 'Reviews' from your results to exclude book reviews
  • include only 'full text' results
  • limit publication date to a specific timeframe - this is particularly useful if you are searching a primary source or newspaper database and want to see opinions written at a specific time. 

An example of an Advanced search from the JSTOR database is shown in the side panel of this guide.


Here are examples of some articles that can be found on specific issues of the communist revolution in China, the causes and the aftermath. 

These articles can be contradictory as different historians interpret the evidence of events in different ways. The articles will also have footnotes and bibliographies that can lead to further articles.

These are just a few examples of articles you can find using our databases and Article search through our Library catalogue.

Historical perspectives on the Chinese revolution

The subject of history is the study of past events. A historian is someone who researches these events and interprets them. Different historians may judge the causes and effects of historical events differently and may place greater emphasis on certain documents or evidence to form their conclusions.

Historians may also approach and interpret evidence through their own personal perspectives, influenced by their background and political, ideological or social beliefs. For example historians may view historical events through a left wing or conservative lens. Historians may be identified as ‘revisionist’ if they reinterpret events in a way that contradict traditional historical conclusions.

Choose from the tabs above for suggestions of texts written from a specific perspective. We don't, though, want to classify historians too narrowly and so the categories should be interpreted broadly.

Alpha history

This site has been developed to support VCE students and includes excellent overviews of each of the VCE Revolutions topics. The site also has pages on historical perspectives, highlighting some of the leading historians.


  • Szonyi, Michael (editor)  A companion to Chinese history
    • this collection of essays outlines developments in the approach of historians to Chinese history. It is an ebook that can be read online. Up to 60 pages can be downloaded and kept.
  • Print and eBooks on the historiography of China.

Maoist historians tend to present a positive view of the revolution and Maoist China. Often these histories were written soon after events and have a political and ideological motive.

  • Mao's theory of the Chinese revolution by Ch'en Po-ta   pp 7-41 (page 9 of pdf)
    • also known as Chen Boda, prominent member of Chinese Communist Party, a secretary to Mao. This is very much an uncritical piece from Mao's administration, part of the collection from the National Archives of Australia mentioned above.

These books consider different perspectives on Chinese history, and the interpretation of historical events to fit political or ideological motives.

Western liberalism is characterised by belief in the freedom of the individual and civil liberty in a modern democracy.  As historians they may interpret events from a belief that all societies are or should aspire to this model.

The historians listed come from the Western liberal tradition. Despite their critical approach, there is a recognition of the massive changes and challenges in China, that within a century have taken this massive, enormously populous country from a semi-feudal society to an emerging superpower. 

Over the last 40 years, since the death of Mao, there has been a reassessment of the revolution, and some of the more venerated and mythic interpretations of aspects of the revolution have been challenged.

Neo Maoists are modern historians with a sympathetic view of Chinese revolution and the development and administration of Maoist China.

Primary Sources

Many of the Databases above will include digitised primary sources.

Another great source of primary sources relating to Communist China is the National Archives of Australia (NAA), who have digitised many of official records of the Australian Government. These are interesting documents, but quite extensive. The content varies, ranging from brief memos to lengthy reports.

Search the NAA records using the search term Communist China, and then use the "Refine Search" option to check the "Digitial copies only" box at the bottom of the form. This will narrow your search to digitised records that you can view online.

Examples of documents from the NAA collection:

  • China Political Parties. Organisation of Communist Party. 1949 - 1954.
    This includes translation of Chinese government documents and briefing notes for diplomats. 
    Some items of interest:
    • People's Daily editorial 1 October 1952 [pp 68-71]: Our great motherland is marching forward to peace construction
      • the tone of this item indicates perhaps an underlying sense of insecurity and threat from the West. The real inherent issues of bureaucratic corruption are highlighted.
    • Party structure with brief biographies of members of the Central Committee p.241-250
    • Party Reform Education  pp. 148-166
      • translations of several internal Chinese Communist Party documents outlining the need for party reform education
  • China - Political parties - Communist Party - Political theory 1946 - 1952
    Includes background papers from the American Consulate in Hong Kong, and translations of Chinese articles.
    Some items of interest:
    • Mao's theory of the Chinese revolution by Ch'en Po-ta   pp 7-41 
      • also known as Chen Boda, prominent member of Chinese Communist Party, a secretary to Mao
    • How to be a good communist by Liu Shao-ch'i pp 43-93 
      • Liu Shao-ch'i  was Vice Chairman of the Central People's Government in 1949, key figure in the CCP includes supplement pp.94-98 by Michael Shapiro (an Englishman and committed communist who went to China in 1950 and remained there for the rest of his life) and biography of Liu Shao-ch'i p.99
    • People's Daily editorial: October Revolution and Asia  pp 106-7
      • very patriotic and belligerent editorial reflecting a stark gulf between USSR/ China and the west and highligting the battle for hearts and minds in Asia. 
    • Report on present situation delivered by Mao to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party 25 December 1947 pp.324-335
    • President Chiang's New Year message to the nation 1 January 1948 pp. 336-340
      • by October of 1949 Mao's Communists had overwhelmed Chiang's nationalists and he and the remnants of his army had fled to Taiwan.  These documents, written at the same time, provide great contrast.

Alpha History

A collection of Chinese Revolution documents and primary sources.

Primary sources at SLV

Most of our primary sources relating to the Chinese Revolution can be found in our Databases - see the box above. Specifically, try navigating to the following collections:

Newspaper resources

Newspaper archives will be held in some of the collections above, and also in our database collection. See the box on Databases above.

From our Pictures collection

Girls of the Political Affairs Commission spreading the gospel of resistance to the peasants of China

China's political youth spreads gospel of resistance, H98.108/690A

Books at SLV

SLV has a range of physical books relating to the Chinese Revolution. Many will be in storage, but some will be available on the shelf in the Redmond Barry Reading Room

Perform a catalogue search using the Books scope. You can Ask a Librarian for assistance if you need to order an item from storage. Alternatively, use the Find on Shelf search scope to limit results to books you can read immediately. Note that SLV is not a lending library; books are to be read onsite at the Library. 

To browse the shelves, try the range from 951.04 (Chinese history - 1912-1949) to 951.05 (Chinese history - People's Republic, 20th Century, 1949-). Chinese History (and Asian History more broadly) will be upstairs in the Redmond Barry Reading Room mezzanine.

Some examples of books at 951.04 - 951.05

From the large bookshelves

The F ('Folio') series are larger books that don't fit on the regular shelves in the Redmond Barry Reading Room. This series is also held on the mezzanine, but items in the F series will be held separately to the B series. The F series is held on the west side of the mezzanine, over the door to the Cowen gallery.

Note that there will be other books on the Chinese Revolution held in other parts of the Library. For instance, books that are more focused on Communism will be held at 335.43 and books on the political conditions in China are at 320.951.

JSTOR Advanced Search

An example of how to perform an Advanced Search in a database. Here we are searching for information on the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution in JSTOR. Other databases will have similar features.

JSTOR Advanced Search