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The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties (History of Imperial China) Hardcover – May 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A broad and well-written overview of Chinese history from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century. Brook uses stories and anecdotes to illuminate historical trends with grace and skill. For those interested in Chinese history, and for comparative historians, this is a very useful book. (Peter Ditmanson, University of Oxford)

Brook has given a readers a fast-paced, intriguing account of the Yuan and Ming dynasties that will be read and enjoyed for many years to come. (David D. Buck Canadian Journal of History 2011-08-01)

Brook's ecological approach to China is both original and timely: for also China's rulers of today are faced with widespread social tension deriving from environmental calamity and natural catastrophe. (Tjalling Halbertsma Journal of Asian History 2011-06-01)

One of those rare works that appeal to both academic and general readers. Its readable prose and intriguing storytelling, coupled with the emphasis on total history, make it more accessible to students at different levels… The Troubled Empire is an outstanding macro study of the Yuan–Ming dynasties by a leading authority on Chinese history. (Wensheng Wang Journal of World History 2012-03-01)

About the Author

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

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

  • Series: History of Imperial China (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1St Edition edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674046021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674046023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Another fine book in the Belknap Press History of Imperial China. This volume covers the Yuan (Mongol) and Ming Dynasties. As with other books in this series, Brook focuses on major themes rather than a detailed narrative. The three major themes explored by Brook are the development of a relatively powerful state encompassing both North and South China, the stresses imposed by the Little Ice Age, and the increasing integration of China into the emerging global economy. In the course of discussing these themes, Brook includes some useful discussions of demographic history, economic history, social history, and intellectual history.

Brook shows well the continuity of the Yuan and Ming periods. He emphasizes the unification of North and South China that occurred under the Yuan with the accompanying expansion of Imperial authority and particularly the Emperor's power. Despite the claim of the Ming founder to restore traditional Chinese institutions, Brooks shows how the Emperor continued to be the fulcrum of government, sometimes with deletrious results when the Emperor was incompetent, disinterested, or unable to control court politics. The Yuan also established Beijing as the capital, necessitating resuscitation of the Grand Canal, which contributed a great deal towards imperial economic integration and creating the enormous internal market that characterized the dynamic Chinese economy. The achievements of the Yuan & Ming states are particularly impressive in the context of the stresses of the Little Ice Age. Brook documents a number of periods he refers to as sloughs in which climate events and other major stresses produced famines and/or epidemics in China. These events are associated with major political changes, including the fall of the Yuan and the Ming.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1271 Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty. But, this dynasty marks a monumental shift in the history and culture of China, with the Mongol invaders placing their unique stamp on the country. The replacement of the Yuan Dynasty with the Ming Dynasty, was in certain ways an attempt to return China to its "pristine" past, but in many more ways the Ming continued ways of the Yuan, confirming the changes that the Mongols made. This is the history of China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, a history of political and cultural transition that occurred in the midst of environmental changes, a time known in Europe as The Little Ice Age.

I must say that I found this a surprisingly good book. The author did a good job of telling the history of the two dynasties in an informative and yet interesting manner. He goes through the various factors acting on China, including the growth of the South China Sea trade (and the arrival of the Europeans) and the various changes in the environment, but does not attempt to give too much weight to any one.

I have read a number of books on Chinese history, and too many authors present the various dynasties as following one after another machinelike, as if the fall of one and the rise of another is of no great importance. Quite the contrary, Prof. Brook does a great job of showing the importance of Yuan and Ming Dynasties in the evolution of early China towards modern China. I found this to be a very insightful book on Chinese history, and I highly recommend it to all.
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Timothy Brook, editor of the Imperial China series, has himself authored this 5th volume of a six volume set. He is a Ming specialist, so he is eminently qualified to write this volume. He takes a creative and unorthodox approach to the subject, where he avoids the usual "here are the Yuan and Ming Dynasties "in this order" approach." Instead he deftly establishes a new conceptual framework, where for example, the weather and not just geo-politics is viewed as the major determinant shaping Yuan-Ming Chinese History. He delights in revealing how (then) contemporary voices, as revealed through Chinese primary sources, help us to better understand the epic changes at work in 13th-17th century China. In a nutshell, his unconventional, but always interesting and informative, approach serves both the generalist and the advanced student, by offering a much-needed, but also much-delayed, new perspective
on Yuan-Ming History. Traditionally, the Yuan has been generally viewed alone by itself as a major dynasty, or alternately in close association with the Song (Sung) Dynasty 960-1279 CE. Brook, however, sees more logic and practicality in linking the Yuan and Ming together. This flies in the face of convention, where the Ming and Qing (Ch'ing) dynasties are traditionally viewed as a matched pair, under the well-established rubric of "Late Imperial China" in much the same way we see the Qin (Ch'in) and Han and the Sui and Tang as matched pairs, relative to the labels of "First" and "Second" empires respectfully. Beyond being unconventional in an interesting and thought provoking way, the value of such an approach is that it does two distinctly different tasks all at the same time.
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