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The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 (Peoples Trilogy 2) Hardcover – 29 Aug 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408837579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408837573
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.5 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 422,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


A brilliant and powerful account of the formation of that society ... Nobody who reads about the cost of the establishment of the PRC in Dikotter's humane and lucid prose will find much sympathy for the authoritarian case. This excellent book is horrific but essential reading for all who want to understand the darkness that lies at the heart of one of the world's most important revolutions (Guardian)

Frank Dikötter, now well into his stride as a meticulous chronicler of China's greatest miseries ... The Tragedy of Liberation is a tightly-written narrative of the twelve most pivotal years in modern Chinese history ... The book is also a dispassionate study of the way nations can pervert optimism and descend into lunacy by steady increments ... The Tragedy of Liberation is more unsettling. For what it tells us about the foundations of the modern Communist Party, and the backstory to so many decisions and statements made in Beijing today, it is essential reading (The Times)

Frank Dikötter's powerful new book is a bold and startling attempt to rectify this apparent neglect. In a cool, dispassionate narrative, Dikötter recounts the orgy of violence which the communists set loose ... The Tragedy of Liberation demonstrates why he has established himself as a leading historian of modern China. He is a rare scholar, adept in both Russian and Chinese ... Dikötter has a writer's gift in the use of English ... Dikötter must be admired for the manner in which he puts a human scale on the enormous barbarities of the communist takeover of China. We cannot begin to understand modern China without being aware of the blood-drenched tale Dikötter so ably relates (Kwasi Kwarteng, Evening Standard)

A mesmerizing account of the communist revolution in China, and the subsequent transformation of hundreds of millions of lives through violence, coercion and broken promises. The Chinese themselves suppress this history, but for anyone who wants to understand the current Beijing regime, this is essential background reading (Anne Applebaum)

This follow up to Dikötter's award-winning Mao's Great Famine examines the early bloodstained years of Communist China (The Times, Critics’ Choices)

One-party states take control of the past as they take control of societies. Usually they must end for serious historical discussion to begin. A great intellectual challenge of our century is to historicize the People's Republic even as it continues to exist. Dikötter performs here a tremendous service by making legible the hugely controversial origins of the present Chinese political order (Tim Snyder)

Dikotter's third volume in the series will treat the larger-scale violence of the Cultural Revolution, so unlimited access might slow him up somewhat. But if I know Frank Dikotter, it will not stop him (Independent)

A history of early Maoist China puts paid to any notion of a "golden age" ... In The Tragedy of Liberation ... Frank Dikotter convincingly demolishes this rosy assessment of the early People's Republic ... The book is a remarkable work of archival research. Dikotter rarely, if ever, allows the story of central government to dominate by merely reporting a top-down directive. Instead, he tracks down the grassroots impact of Communist policies - on farmers, factory workers, industrialists, students, monks - by mining archives and libraries for reports, surveys, speeches and memoirs. In so doing, he uncovers astonishing stories of party-led inhumanity and also popular resistance ... Dikotter sustains a strong human dimension to the story by skilfully weaving individual voices through the length of the book (Financial Times)

This groundbreaking book examines the bloodstained reality behind the word and reveals how it brought tragedy to millions. Frank Dikotter is already the author of a revelatory book about China's great famine of 1958-62, and in this prequel - unsparing in its detail, relentless in its research, unforgiving in its judgments - he deals in the same way with the Chinese revolution from 1945 to 1957 ... This exhaustive trawl through Chinese archives charts the full cost of those early years of change ... Dikotter's achievement in this book is remarkable. He has mastered a mass of original source material, and has done so by mining local archives in China, which have yielded up a host of treasures. (Significantly, scholars are now reporting the steady closure of official records, as local bureaucrats revert to old habits of secrecy and isolation. This may be the last work of its kind for a while.) ... Staggering amount of detail ... For many years, histories of China have treated the 1950s as if the decade was an interlude of reason. That belief does not survive contact with this book ... It is clear to this reviewer, at least, that mainstream academic scholarship must also be revised in the light of Dikotter's work. In particular, volume 14 of the Cambridge History of China, which covers the period of this book, will have to be rewritten (Sunday Times)

Path-breaking ... Some of what Dikotter describes has been known in general terms, but what he has done here - as when he was writing about the later famine - is take advantage of the opening of archives in which firsthand official reports and accounts of death in all its forms, together with the myriad other forms of Maoist horror, can now be read unedited. It will be increasingly difficult for Western China specialists to write with authority based only on previous Western publications or on Chinese public statements. We remain in Frank Dikotter's debt (Literary Review)

Book Description

The second installment in 'The People's Trilogy', the groundbreaking series from Samuel Johnson Prize-winning author Frank Dikötter

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