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

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Sep 6, 2010 - History - 420 pages
29 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.

Access to Communist Party archives has long been denied to all but the most loyal historians, but now a new law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era. Frank Dikötter's astonishing, riveting and magnificently detailed book chronicles an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented.

Dikötter shows that instead of lifting the country among the world's superpowers and proving the power of communism, as Mao imagined, in reality the Great Leap Forward was a giant - and disastrous - step in the opposite direction. He demonstrates, as nobody has before, that under this initiative the country became the site not only of one of the most deadly mass killings of human history (at least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death) but also the greatest demolition of real estate - and catastrophe for the natural environment - in human history, as up to a third of all housing was turned to rubble and the land savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments.

Piecing together both the vicious machinations in the corridors of power and the everyday experiences of ordinary people, Dikötter at last gives voice to the dead and disenfranchised.Exhaustively researched and brilliantly written, this magisterial, groundbreaking account definitively 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  - Chris - Goodreads

An interesting and in-depth look at China during the Great Leap Forward, addressing the central government, regional and local governments, and the life of ordinary people. Well researched and well ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Keith - Goodreads

Basically a horror story. Pleasant to read, easy to spot all the exaggerations. I'm tempted to put it under "toilet book" category. Read full review

Contents

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Copyright

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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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