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War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe Paperback – July 4, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0521525763 ISBN-10: 0521525764

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521525764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521525763
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Victoria Hui is perhaps the only person in the international relations field capable of writing such a sophisticated comparative history of the Chinese and European state systems. This book is pioneering in its efforts to bring Asia ina to the study of macro-historical change in world politics. She demonstrates expert command of Chinese and European sources, international relations theory, and social science research design. The result is a provocative argument about the importance of strategic amorality, ruthlessness, and resource mobilization in state building, and about why ancient Chinese states outperformed European states in these areas." Alastair Iain Johnston, Harvard University

"Victoria Hui has successfully executed a stunningly bold macro-historical comparison, while bringing to light the workings of a fascinating international system. Scholarship on state making and system transformation in ancient China and modern Europe and, indeed, in other international systems, past, present, and future must contend with her arguments and evidence."
William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

"Dr. Hui offers us a challenging reinterpretation of modern European history by a bold and original comparison with the period of state formation in China. In doing so, she challenges some dominant theories both in the theory of state formation and in international relations theory. The boldness of the method will provoke controversy, but nothing could be more valuable, for both historians and political scientists, than to understand European history in comparative perspective. This unusual work will be of great interest, not only to students and scholars of European and Chinese history, but also to those concerned with understanding contemporary global politics."
Michael Freeman, University of Essex

"It is rare to encounter an analysis as attentive to detail and method, yet broad in the scope of its implications as that by Victoria Tin-Bor Hui. Her book embarks on a macro-historical study of world politics and provides a sophisticated comparative history of the Chinese and European state systems... It is the kind of book that is bound to trigger debate and it invites (if not beckons) its readers to pursue further the ideas discussed on its pages."
Emilian Kavalski, University of Alberta, Political Studies Review

"Victoria Hui's stimulating book represents an important contribution to the fields of political science, sociology and history that can be read with profit by Europeanists and Sinologists alike." - Thomas Ertman

Book Description

There is a common belief that the system of sovereign territorial states and the roots of liberal democracy are unique to European civilization and alien to non-Western cultures. This view has generated popular cynicism about democracy promotion in general and China's prospect for democratization in particular. This book shows that China in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (656-221 BC) was once a system of sovereign territorial states similar to Europe in the early modern period. This book examines why China and Europe shared similar processes but experienced opposite outcomes.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Kurjian on May 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hui's War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe makes for an extremely good read. The book compares the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (656-215 BCE) in China, which culminated in a single consolidated state, to the early modern period (1495-1815 BCE) in Europe, which did not. Hui argues that the two similar systems produced different results due largely to the presence and absence of a set of factors which she terms state-strengthening and state-weakening. The book has three main sections. Section one covers the period of history in China; section two, the period in Europe. Section three compares the two systems, ruling in and out various political, economic, and social factors that could account for the difference in outcomes. In addition to its being a stimulating read, the book provides a wealth of sources.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JK on February 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The assumption that a divided world of competing states, such as the Westphalian system that arose in Europe (and which still holds today in the modern world), must be the stable state is challenged in this work. The situation of ancient China during the Spring & Autumn period and the Warring States period is used as a counterexample for how the balance of power can be tipped irrevocably leading to one state becoming supreme and absorbing or conquering others. The example of the kingdom of Qin (which went on to conquer its neighbors and create a unified China) is examined at length both for how it employed self strengthening methods to increase its own economic and military strength, and how it dealt with its enemies who naturally attempted to balance against Qin's rise.

Then an examination is conducted of Europe and why a similar situation did not arise of one state ultimately becoming strong enough to overcome the balance of power to unify Europe. In contrast to Qin, Victoria Hui argues early European kingdoms employed self weakening methods, that may have enabled swift short term raising of military strength but at the expense of long term loss of state revenue and loss of state power to intermediaries. The classic examples include taking out loans from merchants (often secured against future tax revenues), tax farming, and use of hired mercenaries. It is argued these short term expedients were the easiest ways in the more heavily monetized economy of Europe at the time, as compared to the Warring States period of ancient China.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JWM on September 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book has a great mix of theory and history. The arguments are convincing and well supported. A must read if you are interested in the dynamics of interstate systems and state formation.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ltlee on September 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ancient China and early modern Europe are simply not comparable in many aspects. For example, geographical circumscription made competition among ancient China states a zero sum game. In contrast, modern Europe states could explore the new world. In addition, if the people could simply move away, the state would have less coercive power.
Two stars if one wants intellectual exercise.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Darius Wilkins on July 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Thesis is very weak. It can't be anything but weak, since the documentation of the Spring and Autumn + Warring States period is very spotty, compared to premodern Europe. I can't really be sure of much of the political science aspects, since the disparity in source quality can lead to concious and unconcious cherry picking.

Where this book does work really well is as history. Comparing the two era gave me a window in understanding the motives of the participants in Ancient China, so I understood the general flow of the history much better.
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