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Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory over the West Hardcover – October 23, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"In this page-turning historical narrative, Andrade chronicles the 1661-62 battle for Taiwan in what is often seen as the first modern conflict between an Eastern and Western power. While historians have traditionally viewed Europeans then as more advanced in science, technology, and political infrastructures than their Eastern counterparts, Andrade reveals that Chinese warfare tactics based on ancient texts and military philosophy, built up over a millennia of a rich cultural heritage, actually allowed for the enigmatic leader Koxinga and his Chinese generals to neutralize any European superiority in weaponry and defeat the Dutch and thus the Dutch East India Company's hold on Taiwan. . . . For the global and military history enthusiast, this book is exceptionally insightful about the early-modern history of European contact in Asia."--Library Journal

"Tonio Andrade succeeds brilliantly not only in writing good history but in telling a gripping story. If you read only one book on Chinese history this year . . . make it this one."--Timothy Brook, Literary Review

"A most interesting, very well-written and highly important account of the Dutch loss of Taiwan that is deliberately located in terms of the debate over Western military proficiency vis-á-vis that of China. The book offers much."--Jeremy Black, European Review of History

"[The Lost Colony] could easily pass for an exciting historical novel. Andrade spins a gripping tale, full of excellent anecdotes and insights . . . well written with a wealth of details that are well documented."--Gerrit van der Wees, Taipei Times

"Lost Colony proves to be a good read as Andrade turns that would seem like a minor footnote in history into a stirring and insightful account of military campaigns, pirates, sieges, treachery, and naval battles."--Hilton Yip, Asian Review of Books

"Andrade's provocatively titled book is a much-needed addition to the relatively small body of work about pre-modern Taiwan in English that tells how the infamous Zheng Chenggong (Coxinga) threw the Dutch off the island in 1662. He draws very deeply on rich archival sources in both Dutch and Chinese to give a vivid, almost overly detailed, account from both sides of the conflict."--Choice

"[T]his monograph is a triumph of narrative brilliance and academic depth at the same time. It rarely happens that a work of such scholarly profundity will appeal to scholars . . . and a general non-specialist readership hungry for an exciting story."--Barend Noordam, Shilin

"Andrade gives a colourful, detailed explanation of the Chinese victory at Zeelandia, carefully weighing both sides' leadership, tactics, weaponry, ships and fortifications. . . . This is engaging history, rooted in copious records kept at the time, by a reflective writer with a good story to tell--both about the events of 1661 and how history itself gets written."--Michael Clugston, South China Morning Post

"[T]his is an excellent work, a must-read for scholars interested in early modern contact between Asia and Europe, the histories of Taiwan and China, and the history of warfare. It would also serve as an excellent addition to courses due to its readable and engrossing narrative, solid research, and well-reasoned argument."--Scott Relyea, Historian

"Andrade's larger argument is supported by an engaging narrative that is written in accessible prose that makes it suitable for use in high school or undergraduate university classes. Andrade lays out large themes and historiographical controversies in clear, understandable language. Perhaps more importantly, the engaging narrative will hold students' interest. . . . I look forward to using it in my own world history and Asian history courses in the future."--Robert Hoppens, Education about Asia

"Lost Colony is ambitiously theorized, well researched, stimulatingly argued, and beautifully written. Those interested in Chinese, Asian, military, and global history will find it fruitful, stimulating reading. In terms of Asian military history, Lost Colony is another excellent addition to accomplishments over the last decade by scholars on South, Southeast, and East Asia, but military history of Asia still lags behind that of Europe. A genuine global (non-Eurocentric and non-Asiacentric) military history is one step closer due to Lost Colony."--Sun Laichen, Journal of Asian Studies

"This is an intriguing book with remarkable and lively accounts written in accessible prose and with engaging humour. It also offers valuable information and insight about Europe's first war with China as well as Chinese history in general, and provides a welcome and much-needed addition to our understanding of military and maritime history more specifically."--Chia-Lin Huang, European History Quarterly

"Lost Colony makes a major contribution not only to the historiography of Taiwan, but indeed to that of the wider genre of maritime Asia. It provides an excellent basis for comparative inter-disciplinary studies."--Niki Alsford, IRA

"With its meticulous use of detailed and colorful sources, this account should appeal to a wide readership."--Roger Des Forges, Historian

From the Back Cover

"You can read this book as an exciting novel full of pirates, swashbuckling characters, beheadings, treachery, and battles on land and sea--a novel that just happens to be true--or as a revelatory look at the little-known first war between China and the West, and window into one of the biggest unsolved questions of world history: why Europe rather than China colonized the world from the time of Columbus onward. Either way, you will be sorry when you reach the last page."--Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse

"With arresting anecdote, colorful detail, and all the excitement of a contemporary novel, Andrade reconfigures the debate between revisionists and neotraditionalists on the question of whether, and to what extent, Europe's early modern preeminence reflected technological and military superiority over Asia. This book's analysis is as original as it is convincing."--Victor Lieberman, University of Michigan

"Based on impressive readings in Chinese and Dutch sources, Lost Colony examines fascinating interpretive issues on the changing nature of military power in various parts of the early modern world. Strong and important, this book tells a good story."--John E. Wills, Jr., author of 1688: A Global History

"This engaging and detailed book seeks middle ground in a longstanding debate regarding the alleged exceptionalism of European warfare. Examining a key conflict between Asian and European forces, Andrade opens a window on the Dutch colonial endeavor in Asia and its often symbiotic relationship with Chinese southern ventures, explaining how, with grit and luck, the Chinese gained Taiwan by successfully adapting and counteracting the military techniques of their opponents."--Michael Laffan, Princeton University


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691144559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691144559
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on November 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best books I read in 2011, it's hugely entertaining, but also serious history. It reads like a novel, full of colorful people and exotic places, clashes of East and West in battles at sea and on land over castles, with swords and gunpowder, metal armor and muskets, pirates and rebels, heroes and tyrants.

Since the book is about the first major conflict between China and Europe, it offers an opportunity to "test" why Europe came to dominate the world, and not China, one of the great historical questions. Was it because the West had superior military power? This theory has been standard for a long time, but new evidence suggests it's not so black and white. The events of the Sino-Dutch War show why. I was intrigued by Jared Diamond's blurb, and he is spot on, "you can read this as a novel that just happens to be true.. or a window into one of the biggest unsolved questions of world history." It's not often we get both these things in one book, I was sorry when it ended and tried to slow my reading.

The book is well illustrated including more maps than it needs (first time ever saw that). Generous footnotes and bibliography. Overall a great production.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gderf on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The book features history of the era with a somewhat ambivalent thesis of predominance of Western weaponry and culture. Billed as the first victory of China over the West, the book describes the Sino-Dutch War 1661-2 featuring the capture of Taiwan from the Dutch by a Chinese warlord pirate who remained a Ming loyalist after the Manchu takeover in 1644. The war evolved into a personal duel between Koxinga and Frederick Cayete, the Dutch governor of Taiwan. Andrade skillfully provides a view of the war from both sides. In a case for Western superiority Andrade describes the military advantages of the renaissance fort of Italian origin. He seems ambivalent about whether or not this exception to European dominance resulted from superiority of either culture or arms.

It's a very interesting and readable account of the war, preliminaries, including the career of Koxinga's father and an aftermath. he doesn't pretend to know more than the information available in spite of an impressive amount of original research. He keeps up tension as in the best novels without sacrificing accuracy or scholarship. There's a good set of maps, but no pictures.

The closing chapter describes a somewhat confusing aftermath whereby Taiwan ends up a Qing dynasty province in 1683 after a meandering three cornered struggle among Koxingers (Koxinga's heirs), the Dutch and the Manchus. Andrade is adept at discussing weaponry and the virtues of the renaissance style fort of the type that stymied Koxinga's troop predominance for nearly a year. The book ends with the idea that modernization is a process of inter-adoption between East and West citing guns, silk, cheese, and Delftware.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Received a very favorable review by Sun Laichen in the "Journal of Asian Studies" (2012 p.759-61). "Andrade's contribution, with his admirable mastery of rich Dutch and Chinese sources and meticulous attention to them, lies in dramatizing it (but without reducing its historical authenticity) and presenting it in a monograph. It is a huge success. "Lost Colony" reads like a historical novel or a screenplay, full of exciting details and colorful figures."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gill Doyle on July 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The style is sprightly and irreverent. Fun to read. In other words, far from the dry style that one expects from academia. A reader doesn't have to be interested in Taiwan to find this book interesting. What the author describes is a meeting of cultures -- European, Chinese, aboriginal Taiwanese -- at a particular pivotal moment in time. We see how some benefit from the encounter -- adopting and adapting new processes and technologies -- while others fail to learn. In this new era of globalization, the book points out that an open mind is a useful thing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
An enjoyable narrative of the Chinese ouster of Dutch dominance of Taiwan in the 17th century. This book is, to a large extent, an expansion of a part of a prior book by Andrade on the complex colonization of Taiwan. In that book, Andrade presented a very nice narrative and analysis of the whole process and how it reflected several important aspects of 17th globalization. This book is much more narrowly focused, clearly aimed at a broader audience, and describes the ultimately successful campaign of Chinese warlord and Ming loyalist Koxinga (Zheng Chonggeng) to expel the Dutch East India Company (VOC) from Taiwan and use it as a bastion against the Qing. Beyond the useful narrative, Andrade attempts an interesting piece of analysis by using the competition between Koxinga and the VOC as a case study to evaluate whether or not Europeans possessed military technology advantages over the Chinese. The latter has been a point of dispute among scholars interested comparative/global history.

The narrative is solid. Written in a somewhat breezy style with short chapters to enhance readability, Andrade uses primary sources well to give a vivid and systematic impression of the background and events of the conflict. The analysis is also solid and probably the most interesting aspect of the book. Andrade's conclusion is that while many scholars have traditionally underestimated Chinese military technology and the Chinese military tradition, Europeans did possess key advantages, notably fortification and warship technologies. As he points out, with a bit of luck and better leadership, the greatly outnumbered Dutch could have defeated Koxinga. The latter was able to field thousands of experienced and well disciplined soldiers.
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