Julia Lovell Recommends Five Books on the Opium War

The Opium War, understood as the start of an unprecedented crisis inflicted on China by foreigners, is a key source of political legitimacy for China’s contemporary ruling party. The official Communist historiographical narrative of the Opium War relates that it brought on a national emergency which different generations of Chinese reformers—from the late 19th century in the Qing dynasty to the national democratic revolution of 1911, and so on—tried unsuccessfully to resolve, before China eventually chose Communism, which according to Mao enabled the Chinese people to stand up against foreign imperialism and its running dogs.