As China reclaims its position as a world power, Imperial Twilight looks back to tell the story of the country's last age of ascendance and how it came to an end in the nineteenth-century Opium War.When Britain launched its first war on China in 1839, pushed into hostilities by profiteering drug merchants and free-trade interests, it sealed the fate of what had long been seen as the most prosperous and powerful empire in Asia, if not the world. But internal problems of corruption, popular unrest, and dwindling finances had weakened China far more than was commonly understood, and the war would help set in motion the eventual fall of the Qing dynasty--which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century. As one of the most potent turning points in the country's modern history, the Opium War has since come to stand for everything that today's China seeks to put behind it.In this dramatic, epic story, award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to "open" China--traveling mostly in secret beyond Canton, the single port where they were allowed--even as China's imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country's decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China's advantage. The book paints an enduring portrait of an immensely profitable--and mostly peaceful--meeting of civilizations at Canton over the long term that was destined to be shattered by one of the most shockingly unjust wars in the annals of imperial history. Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American individuals, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today's uncertain and ever-changing political climate.
Imperial Twilight Review
- January 1, 1970Gerald McFarland"Imperial Twilight" is an outstanding achievement, a superb analysis of the causes of the Opium War (1839-1842) between Britain and China. Platt devotes very little space to the war itself. Rather his focus is on the broad social, economic, and diplomatic developments that led to war. In addition to his probing account of the war's background, he also provides in-depth descriptions of individuals, both Chinese and British (and a few Americans too), who played major roles in the events leading to "Imperial Twilight" is an outstanding achievement, a superb analysis of the causes of the Opium War (1839-1842) between Britain and China. Platt devotes very little space to the war itself. Rather his focus is on the broad social, economic, and diplomatic developments that led to war. In addition to his probing account of the war's background, he also provides in-depth descriptions of individuals, both Chinese and British (and a few Americans too), who played major roles in the events leading to war. It may not have been Platt's intention, but when I completed my reading and closed the book, I was left with the feeling that had it not been for some extraordinarily stupid decisions by several British officials, the war would never have happened. But judge for yourself. Platt's research is impeccable, his prose fluid, and his judgments always astute.more
- January 1, 1970Iver BandInformative and CompellingOne of the best history books I have ever read. It built on my knowledge of the opium trade from Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy. Very clear and exciting, with a focus on the key people and their actions leading up to the war. Not a military history, but more of a economic and social one that invests the reader in people and their experiences. If you like histories that are both educational and hard to put down, this is for you!more
- January 1, 1970NinaWonderfully written and very fair to individuals on both sides while still maintaining moral clarity about the injustice of the war. Looking forward to reading other histories by this author! What a great combo of narrative voice and humorous anecdotal style, reminds me of Peter Hopkirk’s writing.more
- January 1, 1970AndrewGood, broad history of China and trade from 1800 forward. Objective- down the middle on China / UK perspective. Full of characters and capsule bios (too much for my taste), but still - very good narrative history.
- January 1, 1970George BarnettAn excellent and accessible read about a subject I had little knowledge about. Not at all dry, Stephen Platt vividly describes the personalities involved, and wryly points out the flexible ethics many seemed to hold.
- January 1, 1970Trevor PlumerSuperb narrative that shifts seamlessly from big-picture global movements to personal anecdotes.
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