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The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900. Hardcover – June 1, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0802713612 ISBN-10: 0802713610 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802713610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802713612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

During the 19th century, rapacious colonial powers squeezed China mercilessly, seizing territory and extorting profits while missionaries sought souls. In the late 1890s, a virulently resentful peasant movement spread across northern China; foreigners nicknamed its adherents "Boxers" for the martial-arts exercises they practiced en masse. When the movement erupted into open violence in 1900, the imperial government supported attacks on foreigners that escalated into a siege of the foreign embassies in Peking. Diana Preston's The Boxer Rebellion is an account of the 55-day confrontation that alarmed the world. When Western and Japanese troops eventually routed the Boxers, soldiers and civilians looted the capital (to the benefit of Western museums) and extracted yet more concessions from China. The events of 1900 showed both sides at their colorful worst, and the author spares neither Chinese cruelty nor colonial pomposity and racism. Though this narrative history is told almost entirely from a Western viewpoint--of the 200 titles in the bibliography, not one is in Chinese--the many diaries and letters that Preston consulted ensure a lively portrayal of personalities and evocation of the times. She enjoys racy rumors, whether substantiated or not, and is so enamored of the charlatan Backhouse's salacious claims that he had an affair with the Dowager Empress that she details them twice. With little analysis but all the pace and immediacy of a popular novel, The Boxer Rebellion makes for absorbing reading. --John Stevenson

From Publishers Weekly

One hundred years ago, China, led by a shadowy and highly militant sect called the Boxers, rose up in revolt against all manner of foreign presence and influence, forever altering China and its relationship with the outside world. In this vivid and thorough account, Oxford-trained historian and journalist Preston (A First-Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole) examines the Boxer Rebellion primarily from the perspective of the Western diplomats and missionaries who narrowly escaped massacre in Peking (as Beijing was then known), Tientsin and elsewhere in the summer of 1900. Drawing extensively on contemporaneous accounts by English and American defenders, Preston places readers inside Peking's barricaded diplomatic district. Detailing the beginning of the Boxer assault, she charts the reasons for the rebellionAthe xenophobia, superstition, abject poverty and legitimate outrage at foreign attempts at domination that drove the rebels and their sympathizers in the Manchu court. With equal immediacy and concreteness, she describes the rebellion's progress: the brutal conditions confronted by Europeans (and the Chinese converts who were barricaded with them) during the bombardment; the long-delayed arrival of Western reinforcements just in the nick of time. Preston puzzles over why the Chinese besiegers, who outnumbered the defenders by perhaps 500 to 1, did not instantly overwhelm their opponents. Evidently, she concludes, even as fanatical a group as the Boxers did not truly wish a wholesale slaughter; still, tens of thousands died in the Boxer Rebellion, most of them Chinese converts to Western religions. Bringing this ordeal back from historical obscurity, Preston tells a riveting story about ordinary people placed under extreme pressure by events they could neither understand nor control. 10 pages photos not seen by PW. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

And for any interested in fast-paced, exciting and entertaining history, this book reads better than most fiction novels.
Tom Snyder
Basically, the book is full of vignettes describing the plight of the foreigners in Beijing, but there is barely mention of the Chinese, especially the Boxers.
Alan W. Stark
Preston does a good job at using a wide variety of personal journals and other primary sources to tell the story from the insiders point of view.
Jerry Sanchez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By William D. Shingleton on July 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Whether you enjoy this book or not will depend almost entirely on what your expectations for the work are. If you are looking for a history of how the western missions in Beijing held out and were eventually relieved during the summer of 1900, this is the work for you. Diana Preston has mined a significant amount of the available literature on the days leading up to Boxer rebellion as well as many of the diaries and journals from inside the missions during the rebellion itself. She seamlessly weaves these disperate sources into a coherent and easily readable narrative of survival in extreme conditions.

However, 'Survival in Extreme Conditions' is not the title of this book, and at a fundamental level it does a poor job of explaining the causes of the Boxer Rebellion and the inner workings of the Imperial Court during the crisis. In Preston's book the main figures are acted upon instead of being actors, with the who, what, where, when, and why of the Chinese side left basically uncovered. This is largely a result of a lack of Chinese sources on the rebellion, though even the available sources are barely used in this narrative.

This is a shame, because The Boxer Rebellion starts with one of the best Prologues I have ever read in a popular history work. Preston excellently guides the reader through the main points in global history in 1900 as well as showing how those were impacting China. This context, which is so often missing from other works of the same genre, is useful but sadly unexploited for the remainder of the book, which focuses not on the Emperess and how she was making decisions but on the drama unfolding at the foreign consulates in Beijing.

This is an extremely readable work and Preston is clearly a good author.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Mitch Reed on June 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While not much is written about the Boxer Rebellion, Diana Preston, does a great job. I could not put this down, it reads like a novel. Preston vividly re counts the events leading up to the rebellion, as well as the conflict itself. The discription of the charaters in the same detailed light (the sexual habits of the players is also mentioned, but not over done)places a face on the conflict. It also descibes the awkward union of the world powers that sent troops to rescue the legations in Peking. What I noted the most is that in some aspects China has changed very little. The maps and pictures help with the story. I liked this book very much, and being an avid history reader I could not tell if this was a novel or a history book. If you are looking for a great read that covers this period (in which so few books are written) buy Preston's book.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a fabulous year for lovers of well-written prose! Jacques Barzun's magnificent Dawn to Decadence. Diana Muir's surprising and wonderful Bullough's Pond and now Preston gives us the Boxer rebellion. If William Manchester would bring out the new volume of the Churchill biography I think that I could die a happy man. To get back on topic, do not read this book unless, of course, you enjoy good narrative history, well-researched and presented in a prose style that could put most novelists now living to shame. Speaking of which, when did we cease to recognize that well written history is a high literary art? This is both, good history and good writng - and a ripping good yarn.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I would have to agree to some of the previous comments made about some this book. It is definitively a well-written account of the Boxer Rebellion but as seen through the eyes of the Western participants only. You will not find many Chinese accounts of the siege and fighting undertaken by the Boxers in this story.
Having said that I still found this book a delight to read once it got into the actual siege and relief operations. I found the first few chapters a bit slow but after that the narrative just flowed along with some great stories and accounts from the people who experienced this upheaval.
The story was well written and presented and it was easy to stay up into the early morning reading the book. The author supplied a number of maps to assist the reader in following the action and movements of the forces involved. She also supplied a great number of (small) black & white photographs taken at the time.
Some of the stories were excellent and I found some of the personal accounts truly amazing and very interesting. This is a book that may not suit the historian looking for a detailed account of the fighting but I am sure that most people who enjoy history will find this book a treat.
The story of Bishop Auguste Favier and his flock of Christians holding out at Peitang with a small detachment of Italian and French soldiers was great. The stories of what happened to a number of Missionaries and their families in the countryside were told in context to the situation as a whole.
Even though the book presents mainly the Western version of events I found that the author present her story in a fair and impartial manner. What happened to the Chinese Christians was not forgotten in the story but the book does concentrate on the Westerners.
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