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

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

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Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2011.

Presents the history of China's Great Famine that recasts the era of Mao Zedong and the history of the People's Republic of China.

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

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.


'A masterpiece of historical investigation into one of the world's greatest crimes'
New Statesman

'It is hard to exaggerate the achievement of this book in proving that Mao caused the famine ... only thanks to brilliant scholarship such as this will the heirs of the vanished millions finally learn what happened to their ancestors'
Sunday Times

'The most authoritative and comprehensive study of the biggest and most lethal famine in history. A must-read'
Jung Chang

'Gripping ... Prof Dikotter's painstaking analysis of the archives shows Mao's regime resulted in the greatest man-made famine the world has ever seen'
Daily Express

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.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th February 2017


Frank Dikotter

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Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


448 pages


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Social & cultural history

Asian history



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