Frank Dikotter - Author

About the Author

Frank Dikotter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and Professor of the Modern History of China at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a key proponent of studying the history of China in global perspective, and has published a series of innovative books, from his classic The Discourse of Race in Modern China (Univ. Stanford Press 1992) to the controversial Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China (Univ. Chicago Press 2004). He lives in Hong Kong.

Featured books by Frank Dikotter

Mao's Great Famine The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Mao's Great Famine The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2011

Revolution is not a dinner party. (Mao Zedong). Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives. So opens Frank Dikotter's astonishing, riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era. Dikotter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became not only one of the most deadly mass killings of human history, but the greatest demolition of real estate in human history, (between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of all housing was turned into rubble), and a catastrophe for the natural world as well, as the land was savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments. Dikotter's extraordinary research in Chinese archives for the first time links up what happened in the corridors of power-the vicious backstabbing and bullying tactics that took place among party leaders-with the everyday experiences of ordinary people, giving voice to the dead and disenfranchised. His magisterial account recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.

Other books by Frank Dikotter

The Tragedy of Liberation A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

The Tragedy of Liberation A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/07/2018

In 1949 Mao Zedong hoisted the red flag over Beijing's Forbidden City. Instead of liberating the country, the communists destroyed the old order and replaced it with a repressive system that would dominate every aspect of Chinese life. In an epic of revolution and violence which draws on newly opened party archives, interviews and memoirs, Frank Dikoetter interweaves the stories of millions of ordinary people with the brutal politics of Mao's court. A gripping account of how people from all walks of life were caught up in a tragedy that sent at least five million civilians to their deaths.

The Cultural Revolution A People's History, 1962-1976

The Cultural Revolution A People's History, 1962-1976

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/02/2017

SHORTLISTED FOR THE PEN HESSELL-TILTMAN PRIZE 2017 After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives between 1958 and 1962, an ageing Mao launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was to purge the country of bourgeois, capitalist elements he claimed were threatening genuine communist ideology. But the Chairman also used the Cultural Revolution to turn on his colleagues, some of them longstanding comrades-in-arms, subjecting them to public humiliation, imprisonment and torture. Young students formed Red Guards, vowing to defend the Chairman to the death, but soon rival factions started fighting each other in the streets with semi-automatic weapons in the name of revolutionary purity. As the country descended into chaos, the military intervened, turning China into a garrison state marked by bloody purges that crushed as many as one in fifty people. When the army itself fell victim to the Cultural Revolution, ordinary people used the political chaos to resurrect the marked and hollow out the party's ideology. In short, they buried Maoism. In-depth interviews and archival research at last give voice to the people and the complex choices they faced, undermining the picture of conformity that is often understood to have characterised the last years of Mao's regime. By demonstrating that decollectivisation from below was an unintended consequence of a decade of violent purges and entrenched fear, Frank Dikotter casts China's most tumultuous era in a wholly new light. Written with unprecedented access to previously classified party documents from secret police reports to unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches, this third chapter in Frank Dikotter's extraordinarily lucid and ground-breaking 'People's Trilogy' is a devastating reassessment of the history of the People's Republic of China.

Mao's Great Famine The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Mao's Great Famine The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2011

Revolution is not a dinner party. (Mao Zedong). Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives. So opens Frank Dikotter's astonishing, riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era. Dikotter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became not only one of the most deadly mass killings of human history, but the greatest demolition of real estate in human history, (between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of all housing was turned into rubble), and a catastrophe for the natural world as well, as the land was savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments. Dikotter's extraordinary research in Chinese archives for the first time links up what happened in the corridors of power-the vicious backstabbing and bullying tactics that took place among party leaders-with the everyday experiences of ordinary people, giving voice to the dead and disenfranchised. His magisterial account recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.

Narcotic Culture A History of Drugs in China

Narcotic Culture A History of Drugs in China

Author: Frank Dikotter, Zhou Xun, Lars Peter Laamann Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/05/2016

To this day, the perception persists that China was a civilisation defeated by imperialist Britain's most desirable trade commodity, opium - a drug that turned the Chinese into cadaverous addicts in the iron grip of dependence. But, as this new edition of Narcotic Culture brilliantly shows, the real scandal in Chinese history was not the expansion of the drug trade by Britain in the early nineteenth century, but rather the failure of the British to grasp the consequences of prohibition. They reveal that opium actually had few harmful effects on either health or longevity; in fact, it was prepared and appreciated in highly complex rituals with inbuilt constraints preventing excessive use. Opium was even used as a medicinal panacea in China before the availability of aspirin and penicillin. But as a result of the British effort to eradicate opium, the Chinese turned from the relatively benign use of that drug to heroin, morphine, cocaine, and countless other psychoactive substances. The transition from a tolerated opium culture to a system of prohibition produced a 'cure' that was far worse than the disease. Delving into a history of drugs and their abuses, Narcotic Culture is part revisionist history of imperial and twentieth-century Britain and part sobering portrait of the dangers of prohibition.

The Discourse of Race in Modern China

The Discourse of Race in Modern China

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/08/2015

First published in 1992, The Discourse of Race in Modern China rapidly became a classic, showing for the first time on the basis of detailed evidence how and why racial categorisation be- came so widespread in China. After the country's devastating defeat against Japan in 1895, leading reformers like Yan Fu, Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei turned away from the Confucian classics to seek enlightenment abroad, hoping to find the keys to wealth and power on the distant shores of Europe. Instead, they discovered the notion of 'race', and used new evolutionary theories from Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer to present a universe red in tooth and claw in which 'yellows' competed with 'whites' in a deadly struggle for survival. After the fall of the empire in 1911, prominent politicians and writers in republican China continued to measure, classify and rank people from around the world ac- cording to their supposed biological features, all in the name of science. Racial thinking remains popular in the People's Republic of China, as serologists, geneticists and anthropometrists continue to interpret human variation in terms of 'race'. This new edition has been revised and expanded to include a new chapter taking the reader up to the twenty-first century.

Mao's Great Famine

Mao's Great Famine

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: CD-Audio Release Date: 01/01/2012

Between 1958 and 1962, 45 million Chinese people were worked, starved or beaten to death. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward. It lead to one of the greatest catastrophes the world has ever known. Dikotter's extraordinary research within Chinese archives brings together for the first time what happened in the corridors of power with the everyday experiences of ordinary people. This groundbreaking account definitively recasts the history of the People's Republic of China. This recording is unabridged. Typically abridged audiobooks are not more than 60% of the author's work and as low as 30% with characters and plotlines removed.

The Age of Openness China Before Mao

The Age of Openness China Before Mao

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/07/2008

Cultures of Confinement A History of the Prison in Africa, Asia and Latin America

Cultures of Confinement A History of the Prison in Africa, Asia and Latin America

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/01/2007

Prisons, it seems, are on the increase everywhere, from democratic Britain to communist China, as ever larger proportions of humanity find themselves behind bars. While prisons now span the world, we know little about their history in global perspective. Rather than interpreting the prison everywhere as the predictable result of 'globalisation', Cultures of Confinement underlines that - like all institutions - it was never simply 'imposed' by colonial powers or 'copied' by elites eager to emulate the West, but was reinvented and transformed by a host of local factors, its success being dependent on its very flexibility. Complex cultural negotiations took place in encounters between different parts of the world, and rather than assigning a passive role to Latin America, Asia and Africa, the authors of this book point out the acts of resistance or appropriation which altered the social practices associated with confinement. The prison, in short, was understood in culturally specific ways and reinvented in a variety of local contexts examined here for the first time in global perspective.

Things Modern Material Culture and Everyday Life in China

Things Modern Material Culture and Everyday Life in China

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/11/2006

How do people relate to things? Much has been written about social movements in modern China, but next to nothing is known about the revolution which transformed the texture of everyday life. This is the first book to map the many changes in the material landscape of China from the mid nineteenth century to the advent of communism in 1949. In the late nineteenth century anything local was increasingly rejected as a signifier of backwardness, while imported goods were embraced as prestige symbols. Modernity had to be brought home to propel the country into the world of 'civilised' nations and join a universal march towards progress. But contrary to other parts of the world, for instance Africa and Latin America, the material goods and technological innovations associated with foreign modernity were not merely imported for elite consumption; they were copied locally and rapidly made available to much larger sections of the population. Debunking the myth of 'hostility toward alien things' which is claimed to have slowed down China's inclusion in the global economy, Dikotter in this richly illustrated book analyses how a very pragmatic attitude towards material goods prevailed, as most consumers bought the new and discarded the old without misgivings. They not only embraced new commodities, but rapidly started producing them for an export market in the twentieth century: cheap goods made in China can be found everywhere today, just as porcelain made in China pervaded the world several centuries ago. If an essential element of a rapidly changing world is the capacity to innovate, could China be more in tune with modernity than Europe?

Crime, Punishment and the Prison in China

Crime, Punishment and the Prison in China

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/05/2002

An examination of the enormous changes in Chinese society in the first half of the 20th century through the lens of the Chinese prison system. More than a simple history of prison rules or penal administration, the text offers a social and cultural analysis of the Chinese prison system that explores the profound effects and lasting repercussions of superimposing Western-derived models of repentance and rehabilitation on traditional categories of crime and punishment. Frank Dikotter explores penal reform as a radical modern tool to achieve a traditional Chinese vision of social cohesion and the rule of virtue. He also offers insights into daily life behind bars. A world of petty villains, abusive guards, ambitious wardens and idealist reformers is revealed, giving flesh and bone to the more general story of the prison in China. Based on research and different sources, this is a cultural history of crime and of the prison, opening a window into a little-known aspect of late-19th- and early-20th-century China.

Imperfect Conceptions Medicine Knowledge, Birth Defects and Eugenics in China

Imperfect Conceptions Medicine Knowledge, Birth Defects and Eugenics in China

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/11/1998

Frank Dikotter's work analyzes the relationship between medicine and ideas about reproduction in China, from the late Ming to the present. Drawing on sources ranging from treatises on reproductive disorders to flyers advertising freak shows, he shows how the notion of reproduction as a potentially dangerous phenomenon - one that has to be strictly regulated to safeguard the nation's eugenic future - permeated Chinese society. The process was accelerated by the appropriation of genetics and embryology in the late 19th century and by the publication of works of popular medicine . These historical developments engendered the view that individuals - who were always represented in relation to the larger patrilineal collectivity - should be accountable not only for their own reproductive behaviour, but also for the health of future offspring. Such sentiments still hold sway today. Since Deng Xiaoping's accession to power, human genetics has come to occupy centre stage, as a growing number of socially undesirable traits, including criminality, are attributed to bad genes, which the state seeks to regulate in order to restrict such inferior births . The final part of the book looks at the social, political and cultural context of the controversial eugenics law passed in China in 1995, which potentially endows local cadres and medical authorities with the power of life and death. The ethical and political implications of this legislation are closely scrutinized.

The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan

The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/11/1997

This work reflects on the core issues related to the national and racial mythologies that have been central to nation building in China and Japan over the last century. The contributors demonstrate how the process of modern myth-making and racial identity politics has been at work in the region.

The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan

The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/11/1997

This work argues that, far from being a negligible aspect of contemporary identity, racialized senses of belonging have often been the foundation of national identity in 20th-century East Asia. The construction of symbolic boundaries between racial categories has undergone many transformations in China and Japan, but this text shows how the attempt to rationalize and rank differences between population groups remains widespread. The historical background and contemporary implications ofthese potentially explosive issues are addressed by the contributors to this volume.

Sex, Culture and Society in Modern China Medical Science and the Construction of Racial Identities in the Early Republican Period

Sex, Culture and Society in Modern China Medical Science and the Construction of Racial Identities in the Early Republican Period

Author: Frank Dikotter Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/03/1995

Sex emerged as an independent field of study during the New Culture Movement (1915-21). The anatomy of the reproductive system, the physiology of internal secretions, the nature of sex, the determination of sexual differences, the mechanisms of reproduction, the genetic foundation of sexual differentiation and other related issues were investigated by a rapidly growing number of social thinkers. The result was a flood of pamphlets, booklets, surveys and studies, breaking what was called the conspiracy of silence around the mystery of sex or xingshenmi . New society, it was claimed, had the right to investigate human sexual life scientifically. This book combines the history of science and cultural history to provide a study of the reconceptualization of human sexuality and reproduction. It focuses on the period between the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5 and the communist takeover in 1949, an era of transition marked by the gradual introduction of new thought systems from the West. Notions of sex in modern China were based on new ideas about anatomy, physiology and heredity; they were also part of an alternative paradigm defined by evolutionary notions of time and space. Sex, Culture and Society in Modern China is based on an analysis of both medical and lay texts such as handbooks, marriage guides, and introductions to physiology and sexual hygiene. Texts of scientific popularization are examined in detail, since they provide valuable information on how scientific ideas were re-interpreted and integrated into an indigenous conceptual framework that was marked by a continuity with the past. Texts belonging to the higher levels of culture are equally important, since many members of the academic community in Republican China were influenced by the introduction of evolutionary biology, embryology, anatomy, physiology, and medicine. Within all cultural levels, however, social prejudice and gender bias converged in the use of biology to reconstruct new social categories: the regulation of sexuality became instrumental in the maintenance of social norms.

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