The Slaves of the Cool Mountains – Alan Winnington

slaves of the cool mountains alan winnington cover artPublished:  1959
Reading style: moderate
Images: no

What the publisher says:

Beijing, 1956: foreign correspondent Alan Winnington heard reports of slaves being freed in the mountains of south-west China. The following year he travelled to Yunnan province and spent several months with the head-hunting Wa and the slave-owning Norsu and Jingpaw. From that journey was born The Slaves of the Cool Mountains, described by Neal Ascherson as ‘one of the classics of modern English travel writing’.

The first European to enter and leave these areas alive, Winnington met a slave-owner who assessed his value at five silver ingots (‘Your age is against you, but as a curiosity you would fetch a decent price’), a head-hunter who a fortnight earlier killed a man in order to improve his own rice harvest and a sorcerer struggling against the modern medicines sapping his authority and livelihood. Meeting recently released slaves was a scoop of which most journalists can only dream – ‘Nobody will ever again be able to see them as I saw them’ – and Winnington’s account of their struggle to come to terms with new-found freedom is unforgettable.


  1. Eric Singh

    I read this book many years ago. It is really a classic. I envied Alan Winnington and told him so during some of our boozing sessions in East Berlin. Great guy

    • A real classic, and the level of detail is amazing. Similar to Under the Mountain Wall by Peter Matthiessen, a great observation of tribal culture in West Papua. You are lucky to have shared a conversation with Alan!

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