The Story of China by Michael Wood | Cheltenham Literary Festival

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for the Cheltenham Literary Festival running from the 8th to the 17th of October both online and in-person!


China’s story is extraordinarily rich and dramatic. Now Michael Wood, one of the UK’s pre-eminent historians, brings it all together in a major new one-volume history of China that is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand its burgeoning role in our world today.

China is the oldest living civilisation on earth, but its history is still surprisingly little known in the wider world. Michael Wood’s sparkling narrative, which mingles the grand sweep with local and personal stories, woven together with the author’s own travel journals, is an enthralling account of China’s 4000-year-old tradition, taking in life stationed on the Great Wall or inside the Forbidden City. The story is enriched with the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries; correspondence and court cases going back to the Qin and Han dynasties; family letters from soldiers in the real-life Terracotta Army; stories from Silk Road merchants and Buddhist travellers, along with memoirs and diaries of  emperors, poets and peasants. 

In the modern era, the book is full of new insights, with the electrifying manifestos of the feminist revolutionaries Qiu Jin and He Zhen, extraordinary eye-witness accounts of the Japanese invasion, the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao, and fascinating newly published sources for the great turning points in China’s modern history, including the Tiananmen Square crisis of 1989, and the new order of  President Xi Jinping.

A compelling portrait of a single civilisation over an immense period of time, the book is full of intimate detail and colourful voices, taking us from the desolate Mongolian steppes to the ultra-modern world of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It also asks what were the forces that have kept China together for so long? Why was China overtaken by the west after the 18th century? What lies behind China’s extraordinary rise today? The Story of China tells a thrilling story of intense drama, fabulous creativity and deep humanity; a portrait of a country that will be of the greatest importance to the world in the twenty-first century.


This book covers a lot. And it should at over 500 pages (!) Michael Wood explores China’s rich history and draws on interesting new discoveries to illuminate the narrative of a 4000-year-old civilization and the forces that have kept China together for so long. This includes things such as correspondence from the Qin and Han dynasties; letters from soldiers in the real-life Terracotta Army; stories from Silk Road merchants; and diaries of emperors, poets, and peasants.

It’s a pretty interesting read and is well worth a glimpse if you’re interested in China’s history. The way the book is set out makes it easier to read with each chapter divided into different sections so the book flows easily through history. It’s a book that you can pick up and put down, which I really like when it comes to reading non-fiction! This book covers the history of China from its initial roots all the way through to 2020 – so it’s an up-to-date history packed with lots of information!

This October, Cheltenham Literature Festival and in-person book events are back!

Michael Wood will be attending the festival as part of The Story of China event today (Tuesday 12th) starting at 4pm and running till 5pm. He will be joined by Peter Frankopan about the events that lie behind China’s history and its extraordinary rise today. More details available:

The 2021 Cheltenham Literature Festival returns to live in-person events this year. For further information on all events taking place over the next two weeks:

Many thanks to Sofia Sagir at Midas PR for sending me a review copy of The Story of China by Michael Wood.

Be sure to follow the rest of the Cheltenham Literature Festival Blog Tour: #CheltLitFestival

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