Academic journal article Military Review

Deadly Dreams: Opium, Imperialism and the Arrow War (1856-1860) in China

Academic journal article Military Review

Deadly Dreams: Opium, Imperialism and the Arrow War (1856-1860) in China

Article excerpt

DEADLY DREAMS: Opium, Imperialism and the Arrow War (18561860) in China, J.Y. Wong, Cambridge University Press, New York, 542 pages, $69.95

The Arrow War is an important event in 19th century Anglo-Chinese relations, but scholars have never placed it in a satisfactory historical framework. Most view it as a part of the attempt to force China to accept Western norms in foreign relations. Marxists interpret the war according to the evil nature and innate rapacity of Western imperialism. This interpretation fits nicely into Chinese preconceptions and emphasizes the differences between a culture steeped in the rule of law and one steeped in the rule of virtue.

If a historian should read documents until he can hear the people speak, J.Y. Wong has been reading and listening. In this lengthy, wellwritten, revisionist work he explores some of the reasons nations go to war and describes imperialism in a specific context from multiple viewpoints. Long used as an epithet, few have attempted to depict imperialism as a historical phenomenon in specific contexts. Drawing on years of research, Wong places this small war in its British, Indian and Chinese context, highlighting mutual misunderstanding, arrogance and xenophobia.

along chronologically narrates events then analyzes issues. He places primary responsibility for the war's outbreak directly on British consul Harry Parkes and Sir John Bowring, the plenipotentiary in Hong Kong. …

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