The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962 A Documentary History Zhou Xun

Publication date:
03 Jul 2012
256 pages: 234 x 156 x 23mm
1 black-&-white map

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Beginning soon after the implementation of the policies of the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1961, when the drive to collectivize and industrialize undermined the livelihoods of the vast majority of peasant workers, China's Great Famine was the worst famine in human history. In addition to claiming more than 45 million lives, it also led to the destruction of agriculture, industry, trade, and every aspect of human life, leaving large parts of the Chinese countryside scarred forever by human-created environmental disasters. Drawing on previously closed archives that have since been made inaccessible again, Zhou Xun offers readers, for the first time in English, access to the most vital archival documentation of the famine. For some time to come this documentary history may be the only publication available that contains the most crucial primary documents concerning the fate of the Chinese peasantry between 1957 and 1962. It covers everything from collectivization and survival strategies, including cannibalism, to selective killing and mass murder.

Zhou Xun is research assistant professor of history at the University of Hong Kong. She lives in Hong Kong and in the United Kingdom.

An "important" book that "will help reshape our understanding of Chinese history."—Jasper Becker, Asian Affairs

"Zhou Xun's book sets out detailed primary sources about the great famine in China. The significance of this important book is that the author's sources are no longer accessible and, moreover, they reveal the extent of people's suffering, the complicity of the authorities and the sterling resistance of the citizenry. Zhou Xun's detailed, fascinating book means that these voices and the shocking experiences they describe will never be forgotten."—Gerard Lemos, author of The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese people Fear the Future

“A frank, grisly, and specific portrait of hysteria deafening common sense…Zhou’s book stands on its own.”—Library Journal

“Astonishing…what happened in China during the Great Leap Forward has received little attention from the larger world.”—Didi Kirsten Tatlow, The New York Times

 “Present[s] a picture of the famine more detailed than any previously available in English.”—Choice

“A chastening documentary history.”—The Wall Street Journal 

“[This] collection allows English-language readers to confront the many features of everyday life during the famine.”—The Nation