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The Last Kings of Shanghai

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The Last Kings of Shanghai by Jonathan Kaufman
Hardcover $28.00
Jun 02, 2020 | ISBN 9780735224414

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The Last Kings of Shanghai examines the little-known history of two extraordinary dynasties. In the end, if not in the beginning, they were, as Kaufman puts it, ‘on the wrong side of history.’ But now, thanks to him, they are at least part of history.”—The Boston Globe

“A multigenerational epic of the Sassoon and Kadoorie dynasties, which rightly takes business out of the shadows and puts it at the heart of modern China’s history . . . The author entertainingly contrasts the undisciplined Sassoons with the strict approach of Kadoorie and his sons Lawrence and Horace . . . The book is excellent too on China’s tumultuous history . . . This work does a great service in putting business at the heart of a key development — China’s re-emergence. —Financial Times

“Few histories have been written about the Sassoons and Kadoories in part because the families didn’t welcome the attention . . . Kaufman visited an impressive roster of archives to uncover new details.”The Wall Street Journal

“Illuminating . . . It is surely not the end of the story.”—The Economist

The Last Kings of Shanghai reminds us of that time in captivating detail, and even more surprising, reveals that those “last kings” were displaced Jews from Baghdad who mastered Great Britain’s tools of empire.” 

“Kaufman writes with style and strikes a careful balance between holding the families accountable for their “colonial assumptions” and celebrating their accomplishments. This richly detailed account illuminates an underexamined overlap between modern Jewish and Chinese history.”—Publishers Weekly

“An absorbing multigenerational saga . . . of two significant Jewish families who built wildly prosperous financial empires in Shanghai and Hong Kong that lasted for nearly two centuries . . . Kaufman argues persuasively that their entrepreneurial drive built a lasting capitalist legacy in the country.”Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating look at two powerful dynasties as well as a sharp lens through which to view Shanghai’s ups and downs.”Booklist

“What’s even less likely than a clan of displaced Baghdadi Jews who find themselves in twentieth-century Shanghai and change it forever? Try two clans of displaced Baghdadi Jews. This is the tale that Jonathan Kaufman tells in his remarkable history of the Sassoon and Kadoorie families. Read it and the Bund will never look the same.”—Peter Hessler, author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China

“With exacting research and masterful prose, Kaufman excavates the tremendous influence of two Jewish families, both with roots in Baghdad, on China’s layered and complex modern history. An astonishing read, on every level. “—Georgia Hunter, author of We Were the Lucky Ones
“Jonathan Kaufman shows how the families of Sassoon and Kadoorie surfed the vicissitudes of history to dominate their chosen arenas commercially and socially. They were indeed ‘Kings’, but it was the great city of Shanghai that was to both make and break them.” —Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking and City of Devils

“Gripping and epic in sweep, The Last Kings of Shanghai reads like a thriller but is also enormously informative, offering a vibrant history of the cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong through the fascinating lens of two rival Jewish dynasties that helped shape them.” —Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Political Tribes

“Jonathan Kaufman mines a rich vein of untold history that knits together the Jewish diaspora with the stirrings of Revolution in modern China. The improbable saga of the Sassoon family reads like an eastern and Sephardic companion to the story of the Warburgs–a saga both personal and political, riveting and ultimately heartbreaking. And in Kaufman’s always-deft hands, it’s a terrific read.”—Roger Lowenstein, author of America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

“Kaufman brings to life the extraordinary forgotten history of two Jewish families who helped transform China into a global economic powerhouse. A masterpiece of research, The Last Kings of Shanghai is a vivid and fascinating story of wealth, family intrigue, and political strategy on the world stage from colonialism to communism to globalized capitalism.”—Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

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