Author: Jonathan Spence
Date: 11 Nov 1999
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London
Posted on 2008-03-22, updated at 2018-09-26, by hadiman.
- Author: Jonathan Spence
- Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London
- Publish Date: 11 Nov 1999
- Pages: 205
From humble beginnings in rural Hunan, Mao Zedong became the "Great Helmsman" of Communist China. By the time he died in 1976, he had profoundly changed the course of history. His increasingly erratic whims and graspings at a wild utopia destabilised his immense achievements and he was ultimately responsible for the deaths of perhaps 60 million people. Jonathan Spence brings great erudition to the story of this flawed collossus. He is particularly enlightening on Mao's early years--it is nearly two-thirds through the book before Mao stands on the walls of the Forbidden City in October 1949 and declares the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The young revolutionary's infamous wilfulness is soon apparent, yet Spence rounds out his character by, for example, quoting a poem to his beloved first wife and mentioning the profit he made from an early capitalist venture, a bookshop. Mao Zedong is an excellent biography--and more. China was convulsed for nearly a century by almost constant war and revolution, and Spence uses the life of the man at the heart of so many historic events to elucidate the whole momentous epoch. In his many writings, Spence has proved a master at making complex themes easy to understand and this compact book provides yet another example of his skills.
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