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on November 9, 2011
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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on February 13, 2012
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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on June 6, 2013
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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 1, 2014
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. Given that the Dutch colonists were thousands of miles from the Netherlands and hundreds of miles from their primary Asian base in Java, these technological advantages were functionally quite substantial. While the issue of early modern European military technological superiority has been controversial recently, it has be be said that Andrade's conclusions are essentially identical to those reached by Carlo Cipolla in a book published in the mid-1960s.

If anything, Andrade probably underestimates European superiority. While he stresses the small numbers of the Dutch and their great distance from their bases, nowhere does he mention (probably because he assumes significant background knowledge on the part of readers) the fact that Dutch state was heavily invested in European and Western Hemisphere conflicts during this period. A state with much smaller population than a single Chinese province was able to effect events around the globe. Koxinga, in contrast, with one of the best armies in East Asia and operating close to his home base in Fujian, had to struggle to beat the Dutch. Also, Andrade doesn't capture the dynamism of European technological development. By the early 18th century, the Qing were still using relatively primitive musket technology when European armies were equipped with lighter and easier to use flintlock muskets with socket bayonets.
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on July 2, 2013
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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on July 8, 2013
Just look at recent history of armed conflicts in East Asia. Even weaken Qing dynasty did not lost all fight with Western powers. Certainly, Japan vs Russia, China vs United Nations, Vietnam vs US, ect.
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on January 2, 2015
An easy and informative read. It would have been nice to include more images and graphics to accompany the sections comparing the Chinese and Dutch technology, especially the ships and the cannons.
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on September 2, 2014
Great book, came on time
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on May 24, 2016
The description of the book has been sensationalized, along with the author's claims about the meaning his findings have about the contemporary view of Asian history. Overly cavalier in its approach, along with a clear lack of understanding of traditional Chinese culture. A Wikipedia article or "Badass of the week" blog would provide a clearer picture than this book.
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on February 21, 2015
Excellent!
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