Great State: China and the World

In Great State, Timothy Brook does for China what Mary Beard did for Rome in SPQR, analyzes the last eight centuries of China’s relationship with the world in this magnificent history that brings together accounts from civil servants, horse traders, spiritual leaders, explorers, pirates, emperors, migrant workers, invaders, visionaries, and traitors—creating a multifaceted portrait of this highly misunderstood nation.

China is one of the oldest states in the world. It achieved its approximate current borders with the ascendancy of the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century, and despite the passing of one imperial dynasty to the next, has maintained them for the eight centuries since. When the Mongols brought China into the Mongol Great State, they set a precedent for political organization and political imagination that still persists. The ruling elite has changed over the centuries, and yet the mega-state has continued, created not so much by conquering others, but by being conquered by others and then claiming right of succession to the empires of earlier Great States.

China has never been alone in the world, still less insulated from it. Rather than a pure fatherland that has always been in existence, China is the ever-changing product of multiple and unending interactions with the world.

In The Great State, Brook examines China’s relationships with the world at large for the first time, from the Yuan to the present, by following the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people navigating the spaces where China met, and continues to meet, the world.

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