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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE A Financial Times Book of the Year A Sunday Times Book of the Year ________________________________________ 'Entertaining and well-paced... Platt's compelling book is a sobering read that should focus the minds of those who like to talk of the achievements of the Victorian age without thinking about how those were achieved, or how they were funded.' Peter Frankopan, Spectator ________________________________________ In 1839 Britain embarked on the first of its wars with China, sealing the fate of the most prosperous and powerful empire in Asia, if not the world. Motivated by drug profiteering and free-trade interests, the Opium War helped shaped the China we know today, sparking the eventual fall of the Qing dynasty and the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century. Imperial Twilight is a riveting and revealing account of the end of China's Golden Age and the origins of one of the most unjust wars in history.
Winner of the 2012 Cundill Prize in History
From the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century to the Chinese Communist movement in the twentieth, no province in China gave rise to as many reformers, military officers, and revolutionaries as did Hunan. Stephen Platt offers the first comprehensive study of why Hunan wielded such disproportionate influence.
Covering a span of eight decades, this book portrays three generations of Hunanese scholar-activists who held their provincial loyalties above their allegiances to a questionable Chinese empire. The renaissance of Hunan centered around the revival of Wang Fuzhi, a local hermit scholar from the seventeenth century whose iconoclastic writings were deemed a remarkable match for "Western" ideas of progress, humanism, and nationalism. Advocates of reform and revolution thus framed their projects as the continuance of a local tradition--the natural destiny of the Hunanese people--creating a tradition of reform and nationalism that culminated in the 1920s with a Hunanese independence movement led by the young Mao Zedong.
By putting provincial Hunan at the center of this narrative, Platt uncovers an unexpected and surprising story of modern China that sheds light on the current resurgence of regionalism in the country.
In the early 1850s, during the twilight of the Qing dynasty, word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces. The leader of this movement - who called themselves the Taiping - was Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and the brother of Jesus Christ. As the revolt grew and battles raged across the empire, all signs pointed to a Taiping victory and to the inauguration of a modern, industrialized and pro-Western China. Soon, however, Britain and the United States threw their support behind the Qing, rapidly quashing the Taiping and rendering futile years of bloodshed. In Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, Stephen Platt recounts the events of the rebellion and its brutal suppression in spellbinding detail. It is an essential and enthralling history of the rise and fall of a movement that, a century and a half ago, might have launched China into the modern world.
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