Liberal Barbarism

The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China

  • Authors
  • Erik┬áRingmar

Part of the Cultural Sociology book series (CULTSOC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Introduction

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 3-19
    3. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 21-33
  3. Paradise Destroyed

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 35-35
    2. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 37-51
    3. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 53-68
    4. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 69-85
  4. Practices and Performances

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 87-87
    2. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 103-119
    3. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 121-134
    4. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 135-149
  5. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 151-151
    2. Erik Ringmar
      Pages 153-165
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 167-258

About this book


In Liberal Barbarism, Erik Ringmar sets out to explain the 1860 destruction of Yuanmingyuan - the Chinese imperial palace north-west of Beijing - at the hands of British and French armies. Yuanmingyuan was the emperor's own theme-park, a perfect world, a vision of paradise, which housed one of the greatest collections of works of art ever assembled. The intellectual puzzle which the book addresses concerns why the Europeans, bent on "civilizing" the Chinese, engaged in this act of barbarism. The answer is provided through an analysis of the performative aspect of the confrontation between Europe and China, focusing on the differences in the way their respective international systems were conceptualized. Ringmar reveals that the destruction of Yuanmingyuan represented the Europeans' campaign to "shock and awe" the Chinese, thereby forcing them to give up their way of organizing international relations. The contradictions which the events of 1860 exemplify - the contradiction between civilization and barbarism - is a theme running through all European (and North American) relations with the rest of the world since, including, most recently, the US war in Iraq.


campaign China Europe war

Bibliographic information