When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This incredibly interesting and informative book is written with great clarity and style. It is appropriate and highly recommended for both novices and aficionados of history, anyone interested in some of the major reasons why it has taken China until recent times to develop into the power it is today. We learn about the trade for tea and silk as well as the terrible role of opium and the England/China Opium War of the 1840s. Dolin, as environmentalist as well as historian, also explains how the trade led to the decimation of fur seals, sea otters and sandalwood. This is a history that truly reverberates to the present.


— From Matt


Ancient China collides with newfangled America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships.

Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin now traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a brash, rising naval power from a battered ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, the furious trade in furs, opium, and beche-de-mer—a rare sea cucumber delicacy—might have catalyzed America’s emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe of such epic proportions that the reverberations can still be felt today. Peopled with fascinating characters—from the “Financier of the Revolution” Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who considered foreigners inferior beings—this page-turning saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower or Mark Kurlansky’s Cod.

About the Author

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of Black Flags, Blue Waters and Leviathan. He and his family live in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780871406897
ISBN-10: 0871406896
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2013
Pages: 432
Language: English