- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Export ed edition (6 Sept. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781408812198
- ISBN-13: 978-1408812198
- ASIN: 1408812193
- Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 3.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,582,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 Paperback – 6 Sep 2010
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More About the Author
'The most authoritative and comprehensive study of the biggest and most lethal famine in history. A must-read' Jung Chang 'Mao's Great Famine' is a gripping and masterful portrait of the brutal court of Mao, based on new research but also written with great narrative verve, that tells the gripping story of the manmade famine that killed 45 million people from the dictator and his henchmen down to the villages of rural China' Simon Sebag Montefiore
An unprecedented, groundbreaking history of China's Great Famine
Winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2011 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I want to say that I enjoyed this book, but in saying such a word would imply a sort of entertainment or satisfaction from the book. Enjoyment is the wrong word. I found this book to be profoundly humbling and being the sensitive type, most of the time, I found myself being absolutely repulsed by the idiocy and lunacy of the authorities and the great human loss that resulted. It takes a great writer for a book to have such an effect on the reader. And kudos to him! Dikotter is truly an amazing writer and his research into Mao's China is painstaking and second to none. He writes with a sense of compassion for the people caught in this tragedy but does not however mince his words.
I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about China or who wants to be left humbled about how lucky they truly are!
I have read extensively about the Holocaust, the terror-famine in Ukraine, Stalin's Gulag, North Korea. Those books make me weep, rightly so, but they, even collectively, describe a destruction of human life which just doesn't compare with what happened in China and Tibet from 1958 to 1962. I'm pretty sure that the author is being extremely conservative, when he gives an estimate of about 45 million deaths from the so-called "Great Leap Forward".
China, in the fifties, was supposed to surpass Britain's industrial output. That meant abandoning silly old agriculture (why would the world's most populous country need copious amounts of food, after all?). It required the export of huge amounts of rice and maize, grains which were essential for the survival of Chinese farmers, to pay for dodgy industrial hardware from Russia, East Germany and even rather better functioning machinery from parts of the capitalist world, such as West Germany and the United States. China simply couldn't meet the payments. It carried on exporting agricultural produce, much of it completely inedible, by the time it reached its destination, while its own farmers starved to death, in numbers which the human brain (mine, anyway) is just not up to imagining.
This disaster (1958-1961) coincided with an implementation of collectivisation which was even more catastrophic than the the soviet version in the twenties and thirties, the Romanian edition in the late eighties, even worse than the Ethiopian disaster of the mid-eighties.
They tore down straw huts (people's actual houses), to make fertiliser.Read more ›
If you are looking for something which looks at Chinese history more widely and covers aspects of the Great Leap Forward then try Jonathan Spence's "In Search for Modern China",
I am puzzled though by the one star reviews here. They are way off beam, and seem to be part of a concerted 'holocaust denying' type of mindset. Seriously, ignore them.
The author is very clear and meticulous about identifying the sources - mostly official records to which he was allowed access in the People's Republic. And, as a good historian, he interrogates the records for their reliability. He is also suitably cautious about scaling up to an overall level of casualties from the regional figures.
But to me the point isn't about a big figure total of casualties. People who argue the detail on this are clearly missing the human dimension: the levels of suffering, cruelty and coercion that blighted the lives of so many people. And the mixture of blindly-driven ideology, stumbling incompetence and ignorance, and desire or pressure to conform that caused so much harm and set the economy of China back by 50 years.
Very highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It seems that Mr Dikötter enjoys listing the misdeeds and GROSS mismanagement errors of the Communist Party of China with Mao as the Helmsman. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Shantiq
Excellent account of how the famine occurred and the untold suffering it caused to the Chinese people. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ewan M Smith
Well researched book. The shocking facts showing the complete lack of ability of the Chinese government in those awful years.Published 7 months ago by K D Connelly
Reading books like this I always find that you come away with a sense of horror and enlightenment, too often in the western world we are so focused and obsessed by our version of... Read morePublished 10 months ago by keen reader
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