Professor Spence is described on the dust-cover of this book as 'perhaps now the leading historian of China in the English-speaking world'. Without doubt he is the most imaginative and the most versatile scholar working in that field. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, first published in 1981, was a history of modern China as seen through the lives of Chinese writers and intellectuals.
I suppose a slight confession is in order before I begin. This is a book that I had hoped to write, but for a variety of reasons it never transpired. To me, it seemed to be a glaring omission in the literature on Stalin. Bookshops were awash with biographies of Stalin. Appraisals of the Stalinist system were as numerous as medals on Brezhnev's chest.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Russia, much scholarship, both in Russia and the West, has been concerned with the pre-revolutionary monarchist and nationalist parties which had attracted relatively little attention earlier.