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The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Julia Lovell
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Kurzbeschreibung

10. Mai 2012
'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

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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 456 Seiten
  • Verlag: Picador (10. Mai 2012)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0330457489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330457484
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 19,6 x 13 x 3,4 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 40.316 in Englische Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Englische Bücher)

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

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, 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.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Beeindruckend 4. August 2013
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Die rückblickend nur als peinlich zu nennende Linie britischer Außen- und Wirtschaftspolitik wird hier beeindruckend dargestellt. Im Interesse einer ausgeglichenen Außenhandelsbilanz hat Großbritannien vor rd.160 Jahren mit Waffengewalt durchgesetzt, weiter Opium in China verkaufen zu können. Angesichts des derzeitigen war on drugs erscheint das bizarr, doch hat das UK seinerzeit begünstigt vom technischen Fortschritt in Schiffbau und Waffenproduktion erfolgreich durchgesetzt, dass China von Opium benebelt geblieben ist. Zugleich wird verdeutlicht, dass China geplagt war von Korruption und desolater Verwaltung, letztlich Unfähigkeit mit einer effizient und entschlossen handelnden Macht fertig zu werden. Die Autorin belegt, dass der Nachhall dieser "Episode" unverändert die Beziehungen zwischen Europa und China belastet.
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Ist China chauvinistisch? Stellt das Land eine Bedrohung für die Demokratien in Europa und Nordamerika dar?

Julia Lovells neues Buch gibt dazu viel Stoff zum Nachdenken. Als Dozentin für chinesische Geschichte an der University of London hat sich Lovell zum Ziel gesetzt, nicht nur die Geschichte des Ersten Opium Krieges von 1839 bis 1842 (der zweite wird nur relativ knapp behandelt) aufgrund britischer und chinesischer Quellen darzustellen, sondern auch die Nachwirkungen dieses "Krieges" (der wie Lovell zeigt, vielleicht im Bewusstsein der Zeitgenossen gar kein richtiger Krieg war) in chinesischen und britischen Köpfen bis zum heutigen Tage aufzuzeigen.

Lovell beschreibt zunächst den Ablauf und damit die Absurditäten des Krieges selbst. Der eigentliche Kriegsgrund, das Opium, sorgte von Anfang an bei den Briten für Verwirrung, gab es doch schon beim Kriegsausbruch Gegner wie Befürworter von militärischen Maßnahmen zur Förderung der Verbreitung einer Droge. Bei den Chinesen war man sich lange Zeit garnicht klar darüber, ob man sich in einem Krieg befand und was die kriegstreibenden Briten eigentlich wirklich wollten. Die lachhaften Lügengeschichten der mit der Kriegsführung beauftragten chinesischen Beamten, die darauf ausgerichtet waren, dem Kaiser im fernen Beijing gloriose Siege vorzuspiegeln, wo heftige Niederlagen erlitten worden waren, passten zum manchmal fast komödienhaften Kriegsverlauf. Lovell beschreibt sie mit Sinn für subtilen Humor. Das ganze Buch ist faktenreich, doch in bester britischer Historikertradition zugleich überaus lesenswert und unterhaltsam.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Stimulating! 25. Januar 2012
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Opium WarI got to page 21 of Julia Lovell's great new book, and already I had learned at least one new thing and found two subjects I need to explore further. The new thing: Did you know that the phrase "cold turkey" derives from one of the typical withdrawal symptoms of an Opium addict, namely very pronounced goose pimples all over the body? This, along with fatigue, trembling, nausea, diarrhoea and insonia. The two historical subjects I need to know more about are the Scottish Clearances and the Irish Famine. She gets there via the shutdown in 2006 of a Chinese magazine called "Freezing Point" ("Bingdian") that irked the powers that be by advancing a revisionist theory of the Opium War (namely that, just maybe, it wasn't simply a criminal act by the imperialist powers, as current nationalist rhetoric demands, and that perhaps the Chinese had themselves to blame, too. To illustrate her point, she asks the reader to imagine the British government closing the "Prospect" for running revisionist articles about, yes, the Scottish Clearandes or the Irish Famine. This shows you just how wide-ranging her approach is to her both subject and to writing in general. Anyway, I am thozroghly enjoying myself, and hope you will too.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Accessible and balanced 19. Januar 2012
Von Erez Davidi - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The Opium War is a very balanced and accessible account of a not-so glorious period of British history. The British went to war mainly to open up China to trade in general, and to keep the profitable opium trade in particular, which the Chinese were trying to shut down due to the horrendous effect opium had on the country's population. Interestingly, the British mostly justified the war by saying they were librating the Chinese people, who wanted to trade, but were reluctant to do so because of their repressive empire.

Lovell's account of this important historical event is based on Western and Chinese sources which help shed some light on how the Chinese viewed the Western world in those days.

Highly recommended for those, who are interested in learning more about the historical events that shaped how China views the West today.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Exceptionally well-written account of the Opium wars and their impact on modern China 11. November 2011
Von Jonathan J Hunt - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Julia Lovell is a brilliant writer. In this meticulously footnoted account of the Opium wars, history comes alive. Her pithy descriptions and accounts of characters on both sides of the war was both informative and at times laugh-out-loud funny. As well as a description of the wars, researched from both Chinese and British sources, she includes a final chapter based on interviews from young Chinese today which provides insight into the ongoing impact on the Opium wars on modern Chinese perception of the West.

It's hard to do justice to her nuanced account of the Opium wars. Suffice to say, she finds greed, incompetence, and violence, but also civilisation, kindness and apathy, occurring on both sides of the conflict.

Overall, she finds that Chinese rulers have always been as concerned, if not more, with domestic affairs than foreign ones. She sees the British failure to understand this underpinning the conflict during the Opium wars, but still relevant today as Chinese actions are interpreted by outsiders without consideration for their domestic pressures and constraints.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Useful context for considering China today 7. Juli 2012
Von B. McEwan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
As far as I can tell from my somewhat limited investigations, Julia Lovell's The Opium War provides an accurate and fair portrayal of events leading up to, during and in the aftermath of what have come to be called the Opium Wars of the 19th century. At the beginning of the book, she justifies the use of the singular 'war' in her title by explaining that, in her view, both of these conflicts are actually one, since the quasi-resolution of the first conflict merely set the stage for the second. This seems unnecessary to me. Why not just go with prevailing custom and use the plural?

At any rate, this book provides the highlights of the battles, as well as the rationales and strategies, or lack thereof, that were used by both sides. Not knowing much about China during this period, I must say that I now find China's attitude toward 'foreigners' far more understandable than I did in the past. In short, the British seem to have forced China to purchase opium from them, which was cultivated in British India and sold in China in return for tea and silk, which were much wanted back on the home isle. When the Chinese government resisted, the Brits sent in their navy and started shooting.

Ok, so that is an over simplification. But not by much. Because the Qing dynasty was in the process of unraveling and its leaders had almost zero understanding of the world beyond China, the British seemed to think it was acceptable to plunder the country and make addicts of its people. Their behavior was truly outrageous and it is not surprising that the Chinese considered them barbarians.

So that was then and this is now. Except in the People's Republic today, the Communist government seems to be using the Opium Wars as a way to cultivate nationalism in its young people. According to Lovell, Chinese school children are dragged around the country to various 'historical education' centers, where the current government has erected memorials on the sites of Opium War battles. The narrative goes something like this: "The evil Western capitalists needed to expand their markets, so they came to China and forced us to smoke opium so that they could get our tea, silk and silver. When we resisted, they made war on us. Never forget and never trust foreigners." I have a couple of young friends who went to public school in mainland China, and they confirm this, although as you might imagine, in less vivid language than I have used here.

I should add that, while I did find this book useful, I also found it overly detailed and over long. It has good photos and a useful index and bibliography, but I believe that this whole tale could easily have been told in fewer pages. The promotional blurbs on the book's cover make me wonder if any of the endorsers actually read it. Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, for instance, writes, "A great history of the Opium War. A real cracker of a book," and the Guardian's Rana Mitter calls it "a gripping read." Alas and alack, this is not so.

As Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, "The evil that men do lives after them." This is apparently the case regarding the Opium Wars.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Good two-sided narrative 11. September 2012
Von reader 451 - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The story of the First Opium War (1839-42) has been told before. The question, then, is what Julia Lovell adds to it. First, her narrative reads well, balancing the military account, political decision-making, private descriptions, and analysis. Second, Lovell is a sinologist and translator from Chinese, and her book is based on both English-language and Chinese sources. The Opium War is indeed neither kind to the British nor the Chinese, not hesitating to dwell either on the appalling brutality of the British or the frequent incompetence of the main Chinese actors. Dishonesty abounded on both sides, and it would often all have been funny if failures to communicate had not been punctuated with such terrible slaughter. Perhaps Lovell overdoes the level of indecision on the British side, especially under the leadership of Charles Elliott, the British superintendant in Canton during the first phase of operations. The bibliography suggests she did not visit the foreign office archives, relying instead on published compilations, and this unfortunately leaves a question mark over the Palmerston-Elliott relationship. Indeed, this is all the more surprising that Lovell seems to teach at Birkbeck, and the archives are in London. Nevertheless, the dysfunctionality on the Manchu side is staggering. Chinese and Manchu were invariably at odds. And officials consistently lied to the emperor, blamed supposed traitors, and procrastinated instead of trying to appraise the threat they were faced with. By the time of the Second Opium War (1856-60), the Chinese administration had at least understood that its problem was a technological gap, even if filling it was another matter. In 1839-42, no-one even knew what questions to ask. Lovell's narrative angle that this was too often a comedy of errors, containing so much avoidable tragedy, is convincing.

Where the book is weaker, however, is on its broader points on the history of the Opium War as it has been taught and on its cultural legacy. Lovell writes, in her preface, that the Opium War has a far less prominent place in Chinese popular memory than in official history. Yet the structure of her book, of which fully the last third examines the war's changing appraisals from then to the present, suggests otherwise. Another problem is that one can't do the Opium Wars' historiography in a third of a book, especially with the ambition of commenting both on Western and Chinese attitudes. A whole volume is required. The result is a less than coherent set of last chapters in which it is not always clear if Lovell is writing about changing perceptions of the Opium Wars, about opium itself, or simply commenting on Chinese-Western mutual perceptions in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Almost one whole chapter is dedicated to the Fu Manchu novels and films of the 1920s: entertaining but probably not of essential relevance on its own. A last issue, finally, is that Lovell ignores, in her book, the very long pedigree of such tropes about the Chinese being closed, condescending, and hostile to foreigners. These stereotypes went back, in Europe, at least to the seventeenth century. By making it look as though this was a British gloss, Lovell only lends more credence to the Opium War as watershed, which her narrative otherwise seeks to relativise. Lovell gets points, nevertheless, for her interesting treatment of the Opium Wars in post-Mao China, and in particular for the chapter relating her personal experience with Chinese students, so that this gets four stars after all.
4.0 von 5 Sternen The Opium War and its perception: then and now 5. Februar 2014
Von Marcel Dupasquier - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Julia Lovell's book about the Opium War tells a big story of lack of dialogue and misunderstanding, where two parties would fight a war; respectively one side would fight one, whereas the other side was busy with some border or trade dispute. Thus where the Qing government of China would see the burden of Opium on its people and its economy, the British would see exactly this trade as crucial and even go to war to defend it. Being militarily far superior, the British would subsequently have no problem to destroy whatever they wanted. The Qing emperor on the other hand would not understand this, as nobody told him earnestly, and consequently push for a quick resolution. And as such, they would go on for three years, never understanding the other side, until some Chinese officials would forge their permission to negotiate with the British and grant them whatever they wanted. Such is the story of the First Opium War that Julia Lovell manages to tell in quite clear and vivid pictures.

Thereby, she has obviously consulted both Western and Chinese sources and as such manages to tell the story from both angles. Is her view now biased? As an author who writes in the English language, it is clear that the British story comes out clearer. Nobody can write a book without a point of view. Nevertheless, I would put forward the point that she managed to write the book quite unbiased. She clearly tells that the British started the war unprovoked and with outermost aggression. Such were the times of imperialism that this was nothing special. The Qing government was militarily inferior, and got, in the minds of contemporary British, what they deserved.

But Julia Lovell's history of the Opium War does not stop there. She goes on how the view of a xenophobic inward-looking China would tempt the British further to get more out it by force, leading to the Second Opium War. But only the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, where China lost against a former tributary state, would eventually lead to the Chinese people questioning their world view. After the Nationalists and also the Communists made the imperialists their arch-enemies, the Opium War would become the founding myth of the Chinese nation, which place it still holds today. The British, on the other side, would realize that this was a big empire that might one day become strong again, leading to the fear of the "yellow peril" and also, at least some of them, started to consider this war shameful, calling it thus the Opium War, and not something like the "First Sino-British War".

Did the book now fulfill my expectations? I would say, having read it clearly helps me to understand the world view of contemporary Chinese people. Only the conclusion chapter I found a little bit over the edge, blaming contemporary Chinese for this world view, as if they could decide what education they wanted to take in school. Apart from this point, I can clearly recommend this book to those with an interest in contemporary China, and how it got there.
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