Tonio Andrade


On his book Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West

Cover Interview of December 08, 2011

In a nutshell

In 1997, Jared Diamond published his wonderful book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which asked why it was that some societies become rich and powerful and others don’t.

His explanation was geographical—it depended on where those societies were located and what ecological resources they had available to them. Eurasians (that is the people of Europe and Asia) were unusually blessed just because of where they lived, and so they developed techniques and technologies that enabled them to expand around the world.

It’s a great book, but it leaves open an important question: why did Europeans rather than other Eurasians become so powerful on the world stage in modern times—i.e., after around 1500?  After all, Asians—most notably the Chinese—had been world leaders in science and technology for centuries.  What accounted for the sudden leap in European power vis-à-vis Asia in recent centuries?

Historians and sociologists have been vehemently debating this question, but with little progress.

It seemed to me that one way to help answer it was to look at warfare between Europeans and Chinese. So I did. And the war that I describe in this book is a fascinating and exciting one.

It really is an “untold story”—the first ever major conflict between western European and Chinese forces, and the last one until the famous Opium War of the 1800s.

The Chinese lost the Opium War. They won the Sino-Dutch War. Why? How?  Technology, weather, and leadership.