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The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) New Ed Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The Opium Wars are only briefly mentioned. Surprising because of the importance of Hong Kong in the British Empire.
China, the chief victim of the Opium Wars, may have been the chief beneficiary of the British Empire. Opening the country by force and humiliation has resulted in war and revolution, which are now unleashing the energies of the people. China fell behind Europe since about 1500. Now, thanks to the British Empire, China is beginning to close the gap.
Had China not been opened up, its people would have fallen behind even further - and living at African levels of development. So while in the short-term the British Empire devastated China, in the long run it helped China change and modernize (rather like what the Americans did to Japan since Commodore Perry).
However, nothing would be more foolish than to think that the Chinese should feel gratitude to the British for setting this gigantic process in motion. It would be like asking the Jews to be thankful to Hitler for the Holocaust - even though similarly Hitler's crimes were a direct reason why the Jews have a homeland for the first time in two thousand years. Truly, the disgusting crimes committed by the British against the Chinese cannot be easily surpassed by anything else in human history - with the possible exception of the Holocaust itself. Maybe this is one reason why this is not discussed in this book - it's too sensitive.Read more ›