Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai (Hardcover)

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How a single day revealed the history and foreshadowed the future of Shanghai.

It is November 12, 1941, and the world is at war. In Shanghai, just weeks before Pearl Harbor, thousands celebrate the birthday of China’s founding father, Sun Yat-sen, in a new city center built to challenge European imperialism. Across town, crowds of Shanghai residents from all walks of life attend the funeral of China’s wealthiest woman, the Chinese-French widow of a Baghdadi Jewish businessman whose death was symbolic of the passing of a generation that had seen Shanghai’s rise to global prominence. But it is the racetrack that attracts the largest crowd of all. At the center of the International Settlement, the heart of Western colonization—but also of Chinese progressivism, art, commerce, cosmopolitanism, and celebrity—Champions Day unfolds, drawing tens of thousands of Chinese spectators and Europeans alike to bet on the horses.

In a sharp and lively snapshot of the day’s events, James Carter recaptures the complex history of Old Shanghai. Champions Day is a kaleidoscopic portrait of city poised for revolution.

About the Author

James Carter, professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University, is the author of two previous books on Chinese history and is a Fellow of the National Committee on US-China Relations. He lives in Ewing, New Jersey.

Praise For…

A satisfying juggling act of academic research and engaging popular history.

More captivating than a day at the races, James Carter offers a sweeping ride through Shanghai’s tumultuous history…Every visitor to the city should read this book to know whose footsteps came before in People’s Square.
— Helen Zia, author of Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution

Champions Day is the work of a seasoned China specialist in top form, delivering engrossing stories, engaging arguments, and enticing details—a cultural history trifecta.

— Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, author of Global Shanghai 1850–2010 and Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

Could it really be possible to encapsulate the nuanced story of old Shanghai in one day? James Carter proves it can and, through the lens of Champions Day, 1941, at the Shanghai Race Club, reveals the myriad histories of this controversial and problematic century-long urban experiment in East-West fusion.
— Paul French, New York Times best-selling author of Midnight in Peking and City of Devils

With the eye of an unusually perceptive flâneur, in Champions Day [Carter] tells the story of Shanghai through its former racecourse (now part of the People’s Park). Mr. Carter is a wonderful guide for visitors in search of a long-gone city... Both books are cautionary tales about what happens, in Mr. Carter’s words, when the powerful exploit their environment, inviting war and revolution.

A unique view of an extraordinary city at an electrifying moment in time. Thoroughly researched and colorfully rendered, Champions Day shows off Old Shanghai in all its irresistible glory and eccentricity.

— Claire Chao, coauthor of Remembering Shanghai

James Carter’s account of Shanghai is a gripping tale…To understand the origins of some of the tensions and clashes between China and the West in the present day, this account is essential.
— Rana Mitter, author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937–1945

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393635942
ISBN-10: 0393635945
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Pages: 352
Language: English

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