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The Opium War

UK Publisher: Picador

‘A gripping read as well as an important one’ – Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, 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 episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War 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.

‘Lively, erudite and meticulously researched’ – Literary Review

‘An important reminder of how the memory of the Opium War continues to cast a dark shadow’ – Sunday Times

Julia Lovell is lecturer in modern Chinese history at Birkbeck, University of London, a brilliant translator of Chinese literature, and...