The China Journals: Ideology and Intrigue in the 1960s by Hugh Trevor-Roper (Edited by Richard Davenport-Hines) - review by Piers Brendon

Piers Brendon

The Professor & the Chairman

The China Journals: Ideology and Intrigue in the 1960s


Bloomsbury Academic 277pp £25 order from our bookshop

Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at Oxford from 1957 to 1980, compared his visit to China in 1965 to Lord Macartney’s famous diplomatic mission to the same country in 1793, which was a fiasco. The Chinese regarded Macartney and his entourage as foreign devils come to pay tribute to the divine Emperor Qianlong, who was outraged by Macartney’s refusal to kowtow. According to Trevor-Roper, the four members of his own delegation, representing the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU), were treated as ‘Outer Barbarians’ come to swell the Celestial Kingdom’s acclamation of the new ‘Son of Heaven’, Chairman Mao. Although bombarded by propaganda, Trevor-Roper also failed to kowtow. On the contrary, he damned the Maoist cult, declaring that the ‘processions, the parades, the flags, the historical perversions, the leader-worship, the hymns of hate have as much of nazism as of communism in them’.

The journal in which he recorded this judgement is the centrepiece of the present volume, the fourth such publication of Trevor-Roper’s diaries and letters edited by Richard Davenport-Hines. Scholarly, incisive and omniscient, Davenport-Hines has done another wonderful job. His long introduction and full references provide all, and sometimes more than

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