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Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1980
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Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1980

The six parts of this collection make available all British Foreign Office files dealing with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan between 1919 and 1980:

  • 1919-1929: Kuomintang, CCP and the Third International
  • 1930-1937: The Long March, civil war in China and the Manchurian Crisis
  • 1938-1948: Open Door, Japanese war and the seeds of communist victory
  • 1949-1956: The Communist revolution
  • 1957-1966: The Great Leap Forward
  • 1967-1980: The Cultural Revolution

The revolution which overthrew the millennia-old imperial system heralded a period of turmoil in China which would last for the best part of forty years. Encapsulated by the rivalry between the Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Mao Zedong, the turmoil of warlordism, competing governments, civil wars and Japanese invasion ended only when the Communist Party emerged as masters of a reunified China in 1949. Throughout most of this period the major European powers, the United States and Japan maintained considerable political and economic interests in China, most notably in the foreign concessions in Shanghai and other ‘treaty ports’.

The years following the communist revolution were to see upheavals of a similar magnitude, as the civil war was followed by the economic chaos and mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward, and then Mao’s efforts to return to prominence through the socio-political alterations of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Due to the long-unique nature of the relationship between Britain and China, these formerly restricted British government documents, consisting of diplomatic dispatches, letters, newspaper cuttings, maps, reports of court cases, biographies of leading personalities, summaries of events and diverse other materials, provide unprecedented levels of detail into one of the most turbulent centuries of Chinese history.