In This Review

The Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion
By Diana Preston
Walker & Company, 2000, 436 pp.

Much of the recent scholarly attention on the Boxer Rebellion has looked at the motivations that fueled it. This novel account focuses on the experiences of the 4,000 people (including 3,000 Chinese Christians) from 18 nations who were besieged in Peking's legation (diplomatic) district during the summer of 1900. Preston recaptures the nightmarish horrors, heroic acts, and comic stupidities of those trapped by the armed Boxers and their backers in the imperial army. Using firsthand accounts by diplomats, business owners, and missionaries as well as government archives and official dispatches, Preston documents how a remarkable diplomatic coalition created an international force to confront the Boxers and force the Qing court to recognize its international obligations. An international relief force was hurriedly organized at Tientsin and the port of Taku, but the first attempt to march on Peking was beaten back before it reached the city. The final expedition, which succeeded, involved a British commander managing forces from the United Kingdom, America, Russia, and Japan -- the last two repeatedly breaking ranks to try to get credit for being the first to enter the legation district.