The Capture of Shanghai

Jack Birns / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images. Reprinted with permission courtesy of Penguin Books

American seamen at the Lear bar (1949)

When emissaries of Queen Victoria and the Daoguang Emperor signed the treaty that opened Shanghai and four other Chinese ports to foreign trade, there were no cameras on hand to record the event. It was 1842, and photography was still in its infancy. But a dazzling new pictorial history of the city takes that treaty signing as its starting point and, like Shanghai, sprints chronologically toward the future in a blur of images.

In Shanghai: A History in Photographs, 1842-Today , journalist Liu Heung Shing and Chinese-art expert Karen Smith have assembled...

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