This book joins other recent works that challenge negative depictions of late nineteenth-century Qing reforms. Taking his inspiration from Tilly’s “military-fiscal state” model and drawing on the British case as developed by Brewer and O’Brien, Halsey focuses on the mid-nineteenth century fiscal, military, technological, and ideological changes in China that were part of a century-long state-building process.1

Halsey begins with a question: How did China, unlike India and many other empires, retain its independence during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when European imperialism was at its peak? Culling information from earlier publications, Halsey deftly turns the arguments of their authors upside down to argue that the threat of European imperialism caused the period from 1850 onward to be “the most innovative period of state-making” since the dynasty’s inception (5).

War was the principal engine driving the emergence of a military-fiscal state. Like Britain, China expanded and strengthened its...

You do not currently have access to this content.