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The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in…

The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China

by David J. Silbey

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This account of the Boxer revolution reads a bit like the sequel to the Flashman adventure tale about the Taiping Rebellion. Plucky European and American agents and soldiers put down a crazy Chinese uprising with panache and style. The dying was mostly done by the Japanese understudy who acquired an unsound taste for colonizing from the European example.

It is interesting to note how much of the crazy Boxer movement was caused by economic and agricultural misery. As soon as Mother Nature restored China's grace, the movement collapsed. Nobody was willing to test whether they were bullet-proof, in contrast to the earlier period when life was cheap indeed and attacking Christians and foreigners seemed like a good idea to get through a difficult time. The Qing dynasty in its final years chose to go along and try to use the Boxers as a cudgel to fight the European and Japanese aspirations on China. This was foolish and probably cost them their throne. Had the Qing instead embraced the Europeans, they might have stayed on as puppets on the Chinese throne.

Overall, a short entertaining read about a strange episode of the colonial era that saw a strange mix of international forces lift the siege of Beijing. Who would have guessed that a tiny number of Austrian troops would one day assist in an attack on Beijing? ( )
  jcbrunner | Apr 30, 2015 |
This is a military history of the Boxer Rebellion in China and how the close the Boxers initially came to winning against the foreign forces in China in 1900. Their mission was to exterminate all foreigners in China and though their cause ended quickly, they inspired Chinese nationalism for years to come including Mao Zedong.

Interesting Facts
The Boxers were a bottom up phenomenon. No one controlled them from the top, so by sending a few people from village to village, town to town and city to city to train people, the movement grew incredibly fast.

Boxers was a Western label from "Righteous Fists of Harmony."

The foreign forces involved in relieving the foreign delegations in Beijing were the British, American, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Italian, and Austrian. ( )
  michael.confoy.tamu | May 18, 2014 |
A quick survey of the terminal climax of the Qing Dynasty, as the imperial government of China attempted to direct social revolution against the modern empires seeking to dominate the old Confucian state. The main virtue of this study is that it concentrates on putting the objectives of the assorted players in regards to each other in perspective, and takes the so-called Boxers as seriously as any of the other forces in the field. ( )
  Shrike58 | Sep 4, 2012 |
Short introduction to the multi-national military response to the Boxer Rebellion in China. Mostly focused on the north and the battles to get to Beijing. Mostly from the view of the eight-nation alliance. Some slight coverage of the Qing government. In retrospect it is amazing that the alliance held together given the conflicting imperial aspirations of the nations. The two biggest contributors of troops would go on to fight a war not long after this (Japan and Russia).

Overall the book seemed to leave me with more questions and wanting more details. It might have been a little too on the lightweight side. ( )
  mgreenla | Aug 16, 2012 |
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Mr. Silbey places the war in a tradition that he says was long familiar to the British but brand-new to the Americans, one where empire is created "on the scene, and to the surprise of the mother county," by free-lancing representatives of faraway Western capitals.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809094770, Hardcover)

The year is 1900, and Western empires—both old and new—are locked in regional entanglements across the globe. The British are losing a bitter war against the Boers while the German kaiser is busy building a vast new navy. The United States is struggling to put down an insurgency in the South Pacific while the upstart imperialist Japan begins to make clear to neighboring Russia its territorial ambition. In China, a perennial pawn in the Great Game, a mysterious group of superstitious peasants is launching attacks on the Western powers they fear are corrupting their country. These ordinary Chinese—called Boxers by the West because of their martial arts showmanship—rise up, seemingly out of nowhere. Foreshadowing the insurgencies of the more recent past, they lack a centralized leadership and instead tap into latent nationalism and deep economic frustration to build their army. Their battle cry: “Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners.”

Many scholars brush off the Boxers as an ill-conceived and easily defeated revolt, but the military historian David J. Silbey shows just how close they came to beating back the combined might of all the imperial powers. Drawing on the diaries and letters of allied soldiers and diplomats, Silbey paints a vivid portrait of the short-lived war. Even though their cause ended just as quickly as it began, the bravery and patriotism of the Boxers would inspire Chinese nationalists—including a young Mao Zedong—for decades to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:57 -0400)

A concise history of the uprising challenges popular academic views to reveal how the Boxers nearly defeated imperial powers, offering insight into their successes and role in inspiring subsequent generations of Chinese nationalists.

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