Mao's Great Famine : The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Author(s): Frank Dikötter


"Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives." So opens Frank Dikötter's riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that "fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era." Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of "one of the most deadly mass killings of human history,"--at least 45 million people were worked, starved, or beaten to death--but also of "the greatest demolition of real estate in human history," as up to one-third of all housing was turned into rubble.


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Groundbreaking: Just as Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking rewrote history, so will Mao's Great Famine. It will change the received understanding of the Mao era. Authoritative: An acclaimed historian at the top of his craft, based on thousands of documents never before seen. Compelling: Chronicles the vicious and dramatic behind-the-scenes battles that put Mao in power and kept him there. And, despite the tragedy in the countryside, the stories of everyday people are riveting.

Winner of BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2011.

'A masterpiece of historical investigation into one of the world's greatest crimes' New Statesman 'It is hard to exaggerate the achievement of this book in proving that Mao caused the famine ... only thanks to brilliant scholarship such as this will the heirs of the vanished millions finally learn what happened to their ancestors' Sunday Times 'The most authoritative and comprehensive study of the biggest and most lethal famine in history. A must-read' Jung Chang 'Gripping ... Prof Dikotter's painstaking analysis of the archives shows Mao's regime resulted in the greatest "man-made famine" the world has ever seen' Daily Express

Frank Dikotter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and Professor of the Modern History of China at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a key proponent of studying the history of China in global perspective, and has published a series of innovative books, from his classic The Discourse of Race in Modern China (Univ. Stanford Press 1992) to the controversial Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China (Univ. Chicago Press 2004). He lives in Hong Kong.

General Fields

  • : 9781408810033
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : December 2010
  • : United Kingdom
  • : August 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : en
  • : 951.056
  • : 420
  • : Illustrations, map
  • : Frank Dikötter
  • : Paperback
  • : 1