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

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The author of the Boston Globe’s 2007 Best Book of the Year: Leviathan and his 2010 Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, Eric Jay Dolin returns with the story of America’s first voyages to the Middle Kingdom, where Americans and Chinese looked at each other with wonder, alarm and calculation in his newest book being published September 10, 2012. 

 

When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail” begins at the end of the American Revolution, when America’s relationship with England was in ruins, and the country looked to the Far East for economic trade.  On July 22, 1784, the Empress of China sailed into the Pearl River in China.  Thousands of American and British vessels began sailing on the Pearl to trade for silk, tea, tea service sets and, the most profitable commodity, opium.  Dolin introduces us to some important American names—including Robert Morris, John Ledyard, John Jacob Astor, Robert Forbes, Harriet Low—and he relates the adventures of the first Chinese to come to America, who became almost carnival attractions.  The author also describes the perils of the voyage, the designs of the ships, the rise and fall of the clipper ship, and the American involvement in the Opium War.  Dolin’s new book is a rich, highly readable examination of the seeds of poppies, trade, greed, grandeur and an international partnership that remains uneasy and perilous.

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