The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

Front Cover
Overlook Press, Nov 10, 2015 - History - 512 pages
"'On the outside, [the foreigners] seem intractable, but inside they are cowardly ... Although there have been a few ups-and-downs, the situation as a whole is under control.' In October 1839, a few months after the Chinese Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, dispatched these confident words to his emperor, a Cabinet meeting in Windsor voted to fight Britain's first Opium War (1839-42) with China. The conflict turned out to be rich in tragicomedy: in bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding myth of modern Chinese nationalism: the start of China's heroic struggle against a Western conspiracy to destroy the country with opium and gunboat diplomacy. Beginning with the dramas of the war itself, Julia Lovell explores its background, causes and consequences ... The Opium War is both the story of modern China--starting from this first conflict with the West--and an analysis of the country's contemporary self-image. It explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how delusion and prejudice on both sides have bedevilled its relationship with the modern West."--Jacket.

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User Review  - Hubster - www.librarything.com

Accessible, and takes time to mention the issues behind the war. Fascinating in a horrible way really to think the British empire went to war to sell what we know of today as raw heroin and yet still ... Read full review

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User Review  - zen_923 - www.librarything.com

excellent book about the opium war, it has complete maps and exciting story-telling. It is well-written and very informative. Read full review

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About the author (2015)

Julia Lovell is an author, translator, and academic. She is the author of the widely acclaimed The Great Wall: China Against the World 1000 BC-AD 2000, which was published in eighteen countries. She has translated many key Chinese works into English, including Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang, The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, and Serve the People by Yan Lianke. She is a lecturer in modern Chinese history and literature at the University of London and writes for the Guardian, The Times, the Economist, and the Times Literary Supplement. She spends a large part of the year in China with her family.

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