In the waning days of the Qing Dynasty, China, beset by political dysfunction and domestic tumult, struggled to defend against the imperialist intentions of Western powers. Following years of tensions, war between China and Great Britain eventually broke out, the result of which would propel China into the chaos of the so-called “Century of Humiliation.” In a new book, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, author Stephen R. Platt traces the complex origins of the conflict, and reveals how a once profitable and peaceful relationship descended into war. Dr. Platt discussed his book with the National Committee on July 12th, 2018.
Stephen R. Platt is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and holds a PhD from Yale University, where his dissertation won the Theron Rockwell Field Prize. He was a member of the 2008-2010 cohort of the National Committee’s Public Intellectuals Program. His previous book, a history of the Taiping Rebellion in global context, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom (Knopf 2012), was a Washington Post notable book and won the Cundill History Prize.