Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

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Bloomsbury, 2010 - China - 420 pages
30 Reviews
Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up and overtake Britain in less than 15 years. The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives.

So opens Frank Dikötter's astonishing, riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era.

Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of one of the most deadly mass killings of human history, as at least 45 million people were worked, starved or
 beaten to death, but also the greatest demolition of real estate in human history, as up to a third of all housing was turned into rubble. The experiment was a catastrophe for the natural world as well, as the land was savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments.

In a powerful meshing of exhaustive research and narrative drive, Dikötter for the first time links up what happened in the corridors of power-the vicious backstabbing and bullying tactics that took place among party leaders-with the everyday experiences of ordinary people, giving voice to the dead and disenfranchised. His magisterial account recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.

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Review: Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

User Review  - Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont - Goodreads

In a recent blog on Liberia I alluded in passing to Joseph Conrad, specifically having his novella Heart of Darkness in mind. Have you read it? If you have you will recall the final words of Kurtz in ... Read full review

Review: Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

User Review  - Zeke - Goodreads

Discrediting Mao has become an industry for a reason. As late stage capitalism metastasizes, imperialist armies rush out across the globe, and we accelerate past the global warming tipping point, the ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Frank Dikotter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and Professor of the Modern History of China on leave from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has pioneered the use of archival sources and published nine books that have changed the way historians view modern China, from the classic The Discourse of Race in Modern China (1992) to his last book entitled China Before Mao: The Age of Openness(2007). Frank Dikötter is married and lives in Hong Kong.

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