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.
Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and The End of China’s Last Golden Age
When Britain launched its first war on China in 1839, pushed into hostilities by profiteering drug merchants and free-trade interests, it sealed the fate of what had long been seen as the most prosperous and powerful empire in Asia, if not the world. But internal problems of corruption, popular unrest, and dwindling finances had weakened China far more than was commonly understood, and the war would help set in motion the eventual fall of the Qing dynasty--which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century. 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.
Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American individuals, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today's uncertain and ever-changing political climate.
Judges’ comment: “Written with exceptional clarity, verve and a sense of significance. Stephen R Platt really engages the imagination with a finely calibrated narrative. Imperial Twilight is truly distinguished historical writing.”