Lecture Cundill 2013: Imperial Eclipse: The Long Road to the First Anglo-Chinese War

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On Monday the 21st at 5PM, Professor Stephen R. Platt of the University of Massachusetts Amherst will give a lecture on the Opium War, or First Anglo-Chinese War (1839-1842). He is the winner of last year’s Cundill Prize for his book Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping War. This lecture will trace a broad sweep of the history of China and its foreign contacts, from the 1790s to the 1830s, to plot the Qing dynasty’s struggle against growing internal threats to its control, massive sectarian uprisings and bureaucratic corruption chief among them, against Britain’s rising naval power and the shifting nature of foreign trade at Canton. Such a perspective will help us to escape the illusion of the war’s inevitability and explore instead how the Qing dynasty, which began this period as one of the most powerful and admired empires in the world came to be sufficiently weakened (and Britain sufficiently emboldened) that such a lopsided war, widely condemned at the time as immoral, could have been fought in the first place.

The event will take place in the ballroom of McGill’s Faculty club (3450 McTavish). This event is free and open to the public. A cocktail reception will follow the lecture. RSVP is preferred, so please contact them to confirm your presence at Cundill.prize@mcgill.ca.

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