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Stephen R. Platt

Professor of History

Portrait of Stephen R. Platt

platt@history.umass.edu

(413) 545-2785

Herter Hall 636

Stephen R. Platt is a historian of modern China, specializing in the nineteenth century and China's foreign relations. He holds a PhD in Chinese history from Yale University (2004), where his dissertation won the university-wide Theron Rockwell Field Prize. He teaches courses on modern Chinese history from the 17th century to the present day, as well as seminars on US-China relations, comparative nationalism, and the writing of history. He will be on leave in 2019 with support from an NEH Public Scholar fellowship.

Professor Platt’s most recent book is Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age (Knopf, 2018), a history of the long-term origins of the Opium War. Imperial Twilight was a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize. The Sunday Times and Financial Times both listed it as one of the best history books of 2018. His previous book, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom (Knopf, 2012), was a military history of the Taiping Rebellion in global context that won the Cundill History Prize, the largest international prize for a work of history. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom was also a Washington Post notable book of 2012, a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice, and a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Platt is also the author of Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China  (Harvard University Press, 2007). His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Chinafile, the Atlantic online, the Wall Street Journal, and Late Imperial China, among other venues.

Research Areas

History of Modern China
Chinese foreign relations

Publications

Books:
Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age (Knopf, 2018)
Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom (Knopf, 2012) 
Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China  (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Reviews of Imperial Twilight:
New York Times Book Review
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
The Guardian (UK)
The Spectator (UK)
Financial Times (UK)
Booklist (starred review)

Recent interviews (on Imperial Twilight and other subjects):
The New York Times
Literary Hub
ChinaFile
Bloomberg Benchmark podcast
ChinaEconTalk podcast

Reviews of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom:
New York Times Book Review
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

Interviews on Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom:
Asia Society’s Asia Blog interview
Interview with Maisonneuve Magazine
Podcast interview with New Books on East Asian Studies

Other writings:
Is China Ripe for a Revolution? New York Times op-ed)
A Little Trouble in Big China (New York Times “Disunion” blog)
China’s Long History of Defying the Doomsayers (Atlantic.com)
“The United States of China,” 100 Years Later (ChinaFile)

Courses Recently Taught

  • China in the 19th Century
  • Comparative Nationalism
  • Writing History