As China reclaims its position as a world power, Imperial Twilight looks back to tell the story of the country's last age of ascendance and how it came to an end in the nineteenth-century Opium War.
As one of the most potent turning points in the country's modern history, the Opium War has since come to stand for everything that today's China seeks to put behind it. In this dramatic, epic story, award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to "open" China even as China's imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country's decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China's advantage. The book paints an enduring portrait of an immensely profitable—and mostly peaceful—meeting of civilizations that was destined to be shattered by one of the most shockingly unjust wars in the annals of imperial history. Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American characters, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today's uncertain and ever-changing political climate.
Stephen R. Platt is a historian of modern China. He is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and holds a PhD in history from Yale University, where his dissertation won the Theron Rockwell Field Prize. A fellow of the National Committee on US-China Relations' Public Intellectuals Program, he seeks to engage the wider public in deeper issues of China's history and its relations with the West. His previous book, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom (2012), was a Washington Post notable book and won the Cundill History Prize.
*Please note that this is a book discussion, not a talk. The author will not be present.