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Imperial Twilight


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Table of Contents

1: A Time of Wonder 2: Black Wind 3: The Edge of the World 4: Sea and Land 5: Points of Entry 6: Hidden Shoals 7: Boom Times 8: Fire and Smoke 9: Freedom 10: A Darkening Turn 11: Means of Solution 12: The Last Honest Man 13: Showdown 14: Will and Destiny 15: Aftermath 16: Houqua and Forbes

About the Author

Stephen R. Platt holds a PhD from Yale University and is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His last book, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, won the Cundill History Prize in 2012.


Platt makes the war the centrepiece of an epic narrative, full of extraordinary characters and unexpected twists... Crucially, Platt sees this as a definitive turning point, which broke China's economic momentum for at least a century and informs its attitude to the West to this day. -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times, 'Books of the Year' *
Platt's excellent new history of China and its relations with Britain and the US in the 50 years up to 1839 could hardly be more timely... Platt writes beautifully, with a novelist's eye for detail. -- Julia Lovell * Guardian *
Masterly... Important reading not only for those interested in China's history but also for anyone seeking to understand the explosive intersection between trade and politics today. * Wall Street Journal *
[A] superb history... fascinating and beautifully constructed... Platt has written an enthralling account of the run-up to war between Britain and China during a century in which wealth and power were shifting inexorably from East to West... Imperial Twilight is a masterpiece of the "If Only" school of history, which holds out the tantalizing prospect of a world that, with the right choices, could be made perfect. * New York Times *
With a great canvas to play upon and vivid Western and Chinese sources into which to dip his brush, Platt paints a superbly engaging portrait of Anglo-Chinese relations across five deeply consequential decades. -- Christopher Harding * Daily Telegraph *
A lively, captivating book... Platt clearly adores his topic -- Gerard DeGroot * The Times *
Meticulously researched... A rich and finely balanced account of how Britain and China came to blows. -- John Keay * Literary Review *
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 *
Now that China is once again one of the world's great powers, knowing the history of its relationship with the West becomes ever more important. Platt's book makes a scholarly, but enjoyable, contribution to that knowledge. -- Nick Rennison * Daily Mail *
This thoroughly researched and delightful work is essential for anyone interested in Chinese or British imperial history * Library Journal (Starred Review) *
A fresh perspective on the first Opium War, the conflict that allowed Western merchants to pry open China's riches and gain unprecedented trading privileges... Platt's research is impeccably presented in this winning history of British and Chinese trade. * Publishers Weekly *
Clear writing and an excellent sense of story and scene-setting mark Platt's reexamination of the causes of the First Opium War... Platt brings to life the people who drive the story, including the missionaries desperate to learn more about China and its language, the drug smugglers who made so much money they still have name recognition, the officials desperate to handle a growing crisis of widespread opium addiction, and even a pirate queen and Jane Austen's older brother. * Booklist (starred review) *
A deeply researched study of an early clash of civilizations, when England attempted to impose its will on East Asia... A fluent, well-written exercise in revisionism. * Kirkus Reviews *
Stephen Platt, author of a prizewinning book on the mid-19th century Taiping Rebellion, goes back in time to cast a fresh eye on the 1839-42 opium war between China and the British empire. Viewed in China as the start of a century of humiliation at western hands, the war receives expert treatment from Platt, a historian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. * Financial Times, Book of the Year, 2018 *

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