An old letter dated November 1, 1937, from Chairman Mao to Clement Attlee (Britain’s former Labour Party leader), was sold at auction on Tuesday in London for £605,000 (over $900,000).
In the letter, Mao asks Attlee for “practical assistance” from Britain against the Japanese invasion. The letter was written from Yan’an in northwest China, where the communists set up headquarters following the Long March.
Mao’s letter to Attlee was presumedly translated by James Bertram, a journalist who managed to cross Japanese lines while escorting the wife of one of the Communist party’s leaders. Bertram included an accompanying note advising the British politician to “keep the enclosed letter, if only as a curiosity,” and that, “it is probably the first time that the signatures of Mao and Chu have ever been seen in England.” Bertram knew Attlee personally, and may have encouraged Mao to reach out to him as Attlee was moving the Labor party away from its pacifist stance and was critical of Britain’s sympathy toward the Nazi party.
The auctioneer said the letter is very rare because it is only the second-ever document signed by Mao to be auctioned off and is an extremely early example of Mao attempting international diplomacy. It is an interesting piece of history anyway.
By Mary DeMay
[Images via Sotheby’s]