A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955 - Vol. 2

A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955 - Vol. 2

A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955 - Vol. 2

A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955 - Vol. 2


It is not possible to fully understand contemporary politics between China and the Dalai Lama without understanding what happened--and why--during the 1950s. In a book that continues the story of Tibet's history that he began in his acclaimed A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, Melvyn C. Goldstein critically revises our understanding of that key period in midcentury. This authoritative account utilizes new archival material, including never before seen documents, and extensive interviews with Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, and with Chinese officials. Goldstein furnishes fascinating and sometimes surprising portraits of these major players as he deftly unravels the fateful intertwining of Tibetan and Chinese politics against the backdrop of the Korean War, the tenuous Sino-Soviet alliance, and American cold war policy.


This volume is part 1 of a two-part study of the 1951–59 era, which continues the story of modern Tibet begun in my A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (University of California Press, 1989). The narrative in this volume starts with the events leading to the Tibetan government’s signing of the Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Liberation of Tibet in May 1951. In that agreement, Tibet grudgingly accepted Chinese sovereignty for the first time in its history, and Chinese Communist troops and officials quickly entered Lhasa. For Tibetans, a new, albeit unwanted, era began. How both sides dealt with this new situation is the focus of this study.

This book ends four years later in mid-June 1955, when the Dalai Lama returned from a year-long trip to China, enthusiastic about starting to modernize Tibet as an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. At this juncture, Tibet was calm, religious and secular institutions were intact, and innovations such as primary schools were increasing. This was the high point in Sino-Tibetan cooperation and rapprochement.

However, within months of the Dalai Lama’s return, Sino-Tibetan relations began to spiral downhill, ending four years later with the uprising of 1959 and the flight of the Dalai Lama into exile. Part 2 of this history will examine the second four-year period, from the Dalai Lama’s return to Lhasa in 1955 to the uprising in 1959.

The history of Tibet in the 1950s has not been studied in depth, despite

1. There is some overlap between the first few chapters in this volume and the final four chapters of the previous history. In cases of such overlap, the discussions of events in this volume supersede those of the previous book.

2. There are, however, several useful brief accounts of the period (or parts of it), such as Grunfeld 1996, Knaus 1999, Shakya 1999, and Smith 1996. There is also an earlier monograph

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