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Additional resources for Bandits, Eunuchs and the Son of Heaven: Rebellion and the Economy of Violence in Mid-Ming China

Example text

Clearly, administrative interests and rhetorical demands often obscured social reality,86 and as the following chapters make clear, such terms as “brigand” and “banditry” should seldom be taken at face value. How then is the historian to reconcile the often yawning gap between imperial records, especially court chronicles, and social reality throughout the realm? The central protagonists of this study remain silent and elusive in the imperial records that form my documentary base. Men of force such as Liu the Sixth and Tiger Yang did not bequeath their memoirs to descendants.

With the massive influx of people and a recovering economy, the population of the Northern Metropolitan Area expanded steadily through the fifteenth century. 44 If the physical features and the approximate population of the Northern Metropolitan Area can be ascertained, the inner workings of local society in the region are less straightforward. 45 For purposes of tax assessment and corvée responsibilities, local populations were commonly divided into three ranks of households—upper, middle, and lower—each of which was again subdivided into upper, middle, and lower, for nine categories (the sandeng jiuze system).

That some two hundred pages of text still await the reader suggests that I have not answered these questions with a simple yes. All history requires imagination. Even the historian blessed with the richest body of documentary, visual, physical, or acoustic materials must still exercise his or her imagination. This transcends the already complex task of gathering, organizing, and selecting often challenging materials. Gaps and silences appear. Contradictions confront. Suspicions arise. Unspoken motivations must be plumbed, and misleading justifications must be evaluated.

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