Kenneth Pomeranz is University Professor of Modern ­Chinese History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of a Modern World Economy.
 (June 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

Blundering into War

The East India Company steamship Nemesis destroying Chinese war junks at the Second Battle of Chuenpi during the Opium War, 1841; hand-colored engraving by Edward Duncan, 1843

Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age

by Stephen R. Platt
For much of the 1700s, China’s Qing dynasty (1644–1912) governed fairly well, and many foreigners were impressed by the country’s social, economic, and cultural vitality. By 1850 a noticeably poorer and militarily weaker society was about to suffer thirty years of history’s bloodiest civil wars: above all the Taiping Rebellion …