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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
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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

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  402 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
In the final years of the 19th century, China was in grave danger of becoming a colony of the West. While various powers bickered over how to slice the pie, their very presence in China, like their new technologies and Christian missions, undermined the people's traditional ways. A strange, reactionary movement—mystical, nationalistic and virulently anti Christian—began to ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Walker Books (first published 1999)
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Pam (E.P. Scott)
Jun 25, 2014 Pam (E.P. Scott) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, history
A very informative recount of the beginning middle and end of a very tumultuous period in Chinese history. It was a terrible way to end on century and begin a new. From the invasion of the Boxers, their motivation and justification for their actions, the reaction of the eight nations that were currently slicing up the country, Empress Dowager Chi Chi's support and then betrayal, to the final rescue, it was a read that certainly made me think about how vicious a desperate people can become when f ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jul 19, 2014 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it
This is 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
Michael Gerald
I first encountered the story of the Boxer Rebellion in a history book and a Once Upon a Time in China movie, the one where Jet Li was the lead actor. Since I was a kid, I saw the movie as only about kung fu.

When I read more about the event years later, I realized that it was not fun at all.

My take on this is, even though the Boxers were definitely no saints (they murdered hundreds of foreigners and even more Chinese Catholics and Protestants), most of the Western countries were no angels either
Oct 19, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this book because I read Saints and Boxers and wanted more background about the Boxer Rebellion.

After finishing this book, I feel a bit frustrated. Most of the book is from an European perspective, simply because people of that era were diarists and so there's a huge stockpile of first person written material from the Western perspective. We get a lot of talk about the events leading up to the rebellion, what life was like in the legations when they were under siege, and the aftermath.
Apr 27, 2013 Allen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A very interesting day by day, blow by blow account of the 55 day siege of the Foreign Legations in Beijing and their relief by an international force in the summer of 1900. Drawn almost entirely from first hand accounts in diaries and letters or in memoirs published after the fact, it is primarily a Western account because they kept records and (apparently) Chinese accounts are scarce or nonexistent.

The author tries to put the fanatically anti-foreign Boxer Rising in context of 19th century mis
Sep 06, 2011 Doug rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Diana Preston's "The Boxer Rebellion," I've learned something about my taste in history books. Full-length books on relatively brief historical events tend to be filled with anecdotes. I do not enjoy reading a book full of anecdotes. A encyclopedia entry will suffice.

This is a book admittedly telling only the Western side of the story. Preston claims that Chinese historical accounts are rare. A quick google search shows a few, so I'm dubious of this claim. Suffice it to speculate t
Oct 03, 2014 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a little torn on this book; it's well written (major bonus points for not throwing out untranslated French like many history books do), but the book has a major problem the author herself brings up on page 335: "... most of the available diaries and accounts were written by Westerners." I don't think the author quotes a single non-Western source; it's great to have Western primary sources, of course, but having all the primary sources be Western diaries tilts the book, possibly fatally. If y ...more
May 18, 2015 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Boxer Rebellion” by Diana Preston (Berkley Books, 2000) is a tale of China flexing its muscles against foreigners in 1900. The Boxers were a sect of Chinese who had mass rituals (boxing grounds, exercising, deep breathing, etc.) that while different are reminiscent of groups like Al-Qaeda that form and train together to become a militaristic sort of assemblage. The Boxers were not the elite of the country but more of the common man – farmers and peasants. They formed in the countryside and ...more
I should begin this review with an explanation; it took me forever to finish this book. I honestly have no idea why. It’s well-written, interesting, but not notably difficult reading. It doesn’t seem like the sort of book that should have taken me a long time to read. Admittedly, it is four hundred some-odd pages, but that’s no excuse. I admit, I was partially distracted by reading through the Werewolf: The Forsaken supplement Predators (which, by the way, is excellent, and reinforces my believe ...more
Jul 31, 2012 J.Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book, well written, well researched, Preston does a wicked job.
And yet, it still took me forever to finish this book.
I don't know why that happened, but it seemed like the further I got into it, the slower my reading became. Perhaps that was to fully grasp what I was reading, but I have another theory. The way Preston writes is in such a way as to drag out a small amount of time, but make it seem like it's longer. If that makes any sense.
I started to slow down in my reading b
Donna Herrick
Jan 29, 2012 Donna Herrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable account of a horrific event. This book brings to mind several contemporary events. First, the Iranian takeover of the U.S. Embassasy in Tehran in 1979, echoed in 2011 by the invasion of the British embassy in Tehran. Perhaps, these events are incomprehsible to me because I live in a wealthy, dominant culture. Preston hints that the Empress Dowager might have felt threatened by internal unrest, and channeled that unrest onto the foreigners.
Second, is the sectarian violence in Indi
Robert Garmong
Sep 04, 2012 Robert Garmong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand current Chinese attitudes toward foreigners, this book is an excellent place to start. No, I'm not predicting a violent uprising and siege, but today's complex and contradictory emotions were formed in the era during which the Boxer Rebellion took place.

Several reviews have noted that the book is filled with fascinating anecdotes. To me, the most telling was the Chinese soldiers, during a brief period of truce, selling rifles and ammunition to the besieged for $15. The
Well, I was hoping for a comprehensive, slightly academic, if readable, history of the Boxer Rebellion. However, the title is misleading; what it should be is something like "What happened to the English-speaking White People during the Boxer Rebellion." In fact, the prologue deals mostly with what Western society was like at the beginning of the last century. Ms. Preston relies entirely on English-language sources and the story is told from the point of view of those British and American people ...more
Nov 26, 2013 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Very thorough and well documented. Covered the Boxer Rebellion from the earliest signs of its beginning through the bitter end.

What struck me about this was the unfairness of it all: Foreign powers divided China up in whatever way they felt like, and the Chinese leaders let it happen. It was not wise for European nations to simply help themselves; this was hardly the only case of such a thing. Such as France's colonization of Algeria, Belgium's exploitation of the Congo, etc., etc., etc.

China ha
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A history of the Boxer Rebellion. A series of incidents that happened in 1900. Several foreign powers were in China with their missionaries, merchants and ne'er-do-wells. China was ruled by an aging and corrupt Ching dynasty, including the Empress Dowager who wielded absolute power. An indigenous movement called the Boxers sprang up which was opposed to this foreign presence. The Boxers, with the acquiescence of the government started attacking and killing foreigners.The main event occurred when ...more
Jeff Easterling
The Boxer Rebellion is important to understand, as it was a watershed event in Chinese history pitting the Qing Dynasty and its anti-foreign / quasi-nationalist militia (the Boxers), against the Europe, the United States and Japan. Over the year which it occurred, Western and Japanese merchants, missionaries and dignitaries, and Chinese Christians in northern China were waylaid and killed by Boxer militia (secretly supported by Dowager Empress Cixi). Many of the Western and Japanese in China man ...more
Oct 25, 2012 itpdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating piece of history,well told. Diana Preston gives us enough background to dive into the story of foreigners under seige in China in 1900 without being pedantic. She concentrates on the seige of the legation district in Peking but fills in information from the battle at the concessions in Tientsin, the seige of the Peitang Cathedral and the harassment and murder of missionaries in the countryside of northern China. Ms. Preston does a good job of using the words of the people involved ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Kelley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
The Boxer Rebellion has been an aspect of Chinese history that has long interested me. This book therefore immediately piqued my interest. Despite interesting moments, I was somewhat underwhelmed by this book. I was disappointed with Preston's scholarship that focused primarily on reporting from the foreign perspective almost exclusively. This lack of balanced accounting of history detracted from the full story in my opinion. The research she did however pulled from many sources so many voices d ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in a style similar to Giles Milton - taking a specific historical event and portraying it with the help of contemporary diaries.
Unfortunately it delivers a pretty one-sided view of events due to the lack of contemporary journals on the Boxer side of the conflict.
Really enjoyed the read. Some moments when the Victorian attitudes of the Western powers (including Russia and Japan in those days) were hard to swallow. Particularly their disregard for the lives of the Chinese converts in their
Jan 05, 2015 Jennyb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good, although entirely one-sided. If you want to know much of anything about the Chinese motivations or perspective on this event, this isn't the book where you will find that out.
Jan 21, 2016 Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about a little known part of history in the western world that helps understand the China of today and the historical roots of some of its policies.
May 09, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When my colleagues in Beijing mentioned the war against China that the US had been involved in, and I couldn't remember it, I decided I had better learn a bit more about it. This book provides a good view into China in 1900, although from a distinctly western perspective. The Boxer Rebellion (as we call it, my Chinese friends were not familiar with the term "Boxer") is a singular episode in east-west relations. It seems to have been the moment that China was able to divert the western powers fro ...more
Cullen Enn
This book is in many ways more about the state of life under the siege, than really about the rebellion. Though bookended with some information and perspective on the context from which the Boxers emerged, and some light condemnation of the Allied looting and reprisals that followed the siege, it mostly frames the activity of the Chinese as mysterious; the activities of the (white) besieged are relatable and gripping. Perhaps this is truly a function of the material that is verifiable and availa ...more
Sammy Duncan
Jan 27, 2016 Sammy Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough and readable review of the Boxer crisis.
Endeavour Press
Nov 10, 2014 Endeavour Press rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is published by Endeavour Press.
Kenneth Barber
May 01, 2013 Kenneth Barber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book on the attempt in the summer of 1900 to throw out the foreign powers, including the United States , that were exploiting china. It was aimed at turning back the clock to the time when china ruled itself without foreign interference. The boxer movement had semi- religious overtones seeing the bringing of Christianity as harmfull to Chinese culture. I saw parallels to the ghost dance movement of the American Indians Both had religious aspects and were trying to restore their cultu ...more
Jesse Morrow
Jan 08, 2014 Jesse Morrow rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The less than dramatic story of Westerners reacting to the Boxer Rebellion. Like the Victorians we learned nothing of the Boxers from this book. They were still meaningless peasants who were only there to terrorize all those well meaning White Christians.

At least it isn't that long
Jul 23, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Great read on this pivotal moment in history. You get a great glimpse the life and experience of the Westerners who lived (or died) through the experience.

I was a little disappointed there was almost nothing from the Chinese side of the Boxer Rebellion, but I suppose that would be a different book.

Still a good history read. Besides personal experiences you get a picture of the decision making by the players on the ground as well as some of the interpersonal drama.
Chris Doherty
I was a little disappointed. Most of the book is an account of the Europeans and how they survived the siege. If that is what you are looking for than this is a great book (5 stars). However, it left me wanting more from the Chinese perspective. If you want that then read "Three Keys," an excellent book on the Chinese side of the Boxer Rebellion.
This is the book that got me seriously into reading history. I was killing time at Barnes & Noble, waiting for my wife to finish shopping. This book was on a table at the front, I picked it up to leaf through it- and I was hooked. The story of the Westerner's survival is pretty amazing.
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From Walker Books:

Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles T
More about Diana Preston...

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