The definitive history of the Opium War--a vivid narrative of the earliest Western efforts to open China to trade and the resulting war that ensured the decline of imperial China.
When Britain declared war on China in 1839, it sealed the fate of what had been, for centuries, the wealthiest and most powerful empire in the world. But local corruption, popular uprisings, and dwindling finances had left the country much weaker than was commonly understood and the war set in motion the fall of the Qing dynasty which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century. Imperial Twilight is the dramatic, epic story of the decades leading up to the war. Award-winning historian Stephen Platt recounts the first efforts by the British government to "open" China to trade--Western missionaries and traders venturing to the still mysterious empire while the Chinese emperor and officials struggled to manage their country's decline--and makes clear how the profits from opium ultimately lead to the war. Given the growing uncertainty in current relations between China and the West, the riveting history recounted in Imperial Twilight has important implications for the world today.