About the Book: The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
A comprehensive and compelling account of the causes and consequences of the opium war
'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 170 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 causes and consequences and, through this larger narrative, interweaves the curious stories of opium's promoters and attackers. 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 have bedevilled its relationship with the modern West.
About the Author: Julia Lovell
Julia Lovell teaches modern Chinese history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of The Great Wall: China Against the World and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature and writes on China for the Guardian, the Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. Her many translations of modern Chinese fiction include, most recently, Lu Xun's The Real Story of Ah-Q, and Other Tales of China.
'. . .enjoyable and readable book'-The Telegraph
'Lovell's excellent work goes to show that fact is often more exciting and compelling than fiction'-The Sunday Statesman
'This novel is valuable for the wealth of details about the opium wars. . .'-Deccan Herald
'offers a fresh look at the Opium Wars'-The Financial
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