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China's Last Empire: The Great Qing (History of Imperial China) Hardcover – November 14, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0674036123 ISBN-10: 0674036123 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: History of Imperial China (Book 6)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674036123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674036123
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


In a fine, well-written study, Rowe brings the latest scholarship in Qing history to a wide audience. This book reflects a lifetime of reading in the field, and is written in the fluent manner of an accomplished and very successful author. Responsible and judicious, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Chinese history. (R. Kent Guy, University of Washington)

Here is a new narrative for Chinese history. It is based on the path-breaking scholarship of a small body of principally American scholars who have shown that after the non-Han Manchus conquered the Ming in 1644, traditional China was gradually replaced by something very different. This meant that the previous explanations, emanating from the Harvard school, led by the persuasive John King Fairbank, which emphasized a succession of essentially unchanging dynasties, must be abandoned...In short, as Professor Rowe sets out in this important book, "the inward-looking and hermetic Celestial Empire" has vanished and something far more interesting has come convincingly before us. (Jonathan Mirsky Times Literary Supplement 2009-12-04)

A very fine book, drawing on the best new scholarship on this pivotal period in Chinese history. (K. E. Stapleton Choice 2010-03-01)

This series on China, brilliantly overseen by Timothy Brook, is a credit to Harvard University Press. Above all, it encourages us to think of China in different ways. (Jonathan Mirsky Literary Review 2010-11-01)

About the Author

William T. Rowe is John and Diane Cooke Professor of Chinese History at Johns Hopkins University.

Timothy Brook is Professor of History and Republic of China Chair at the University of British Columbia.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By G. Glick on January 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once in a long time, comes a history that departs from the unpalatable choice of over-specialized/detailed research topic versus unoriginal/padded general overview. William Rowe's survey volume on the Qing Dynasty is happily one such volume. Rowe has not only thoroughly digested the ever-accumulating [and now fairly massive] specialized research on the period, but also fashioned a new conception of the dynasty that deserves the attention both general readers and specialists. As a past history major, I am usually quite cynical about those who talk of history as a "building block process" in which the specialists lay the bricks and the generalists make the buildings. But in this case, Rowe has built a fine structure that also does honor to those whose contributions he utilizes. This is now the finest general volume on the Qing and is not to be missed.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A well written and thoughtful overview of the last Chinese empire, the Qing. This is not a conventional narrative survey. Rowe's approach is to concentrate on major structural themes - the formation and organization of the Qing state, social structure, economy, interactions with the Western world, and then to trace changes in these features across the history of the Qing Empire. While not a conventional chronologic narrative, Rowe skillfully folds in the important political history, focusing on major transitions - the formation of the Empire, the 18th century zenith, the traumas of the 19th century, and the collapse of the Imperial state. Given the length of the period covered, the large secondary literature, and the complexity of the topics covered, this is an impressive performance.

Rowe emphasizes a number of particularly interesting points that have emerged over the past generation of Qing studies. One is the creative nature of Qing state formation. Far from blindly adopting Chinese governmental structures, Rowe shows the Qing as creatively combining Chinese-Confucian traditions with with other traditions to form a polyglot imperial state with the Imperial court at the center. The Qing expanded China to its present borders. While not discussed extensively, Rowe sets Qing state development in the context of "early modern" empires, Muscovy - Ottoman Turkey, the British empire - that emerge in approximately this period. Rowe also emphasizes the relatively modest nature of the Qing state. From the early 18th century on, the Qing limited taxation and the size of the imperial bureaucracy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By kkbs on June 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the sixth and final volume of Harvard University Press' History of Imperial China. On 289 pages (plus notes and bibliography) William T. Rowe outlines the complete history of the Qing dynasty, from its beginning at the end of the Ming dynasty until the Chinese republican revolution in 1911. In contrast to at least the first four volumes of this series, chapters on governance, society and commerce are embedded into the general history, which in my view makes the book even more readable. The author puts the same weight on the early periods of the Qing, during which China expanded drastically in its territory, population and economy, as on the latter periods of confrontation with the Western powers, which ususally dominate the discussion on the Qing. Thus, the prevailing impression of decline and decadence during this dynasty is put into the right perspective. This is also indicated in the introdcution, which gives a short but interesting outline of the way how the dominating perceptions of the Qing have changed in the last decades. The text is accompanied by b/w illustration and photographies, as well as some maps. In particular when it comes to territorial expansion and administration, a few more maps certainly would have been helpful. Also some more words on the consequences on the decades to follow the revolution would have been interesting, although this certainly would not fall into the actual scope of imperial China.
Nevertheless, the book is written very well, and together with the previous five volumes, it is highly recommended for everybody interested in Chinese history. I just hope that the series may be extended by a volume each on the pre- and post-imperial history of China.
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