Sunday, October 25, 2015

First Impressions: G107 The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China

Name of Book: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China

Author: David J. Silbey

ISBN: 978-0-8090-3075-0

Publisher: Hill and Wang

Year it was published: 2012


A concise history of an uprising that took down a three-hundred-year-old dynasty and united the great powers

The year is 1900, and Western empires are locked in 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 our recent past, they lack a centralized leadership and instead tap into latent nationalism and deep economic frustration to build their army.

Many scholars brush off the Boxer Rebellion as an ill-conceived and easily defeated revolt, but in The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China, the military historian David J. Silbey shows just how close the Boxers came to beating back the combined might of the imperial powers. Drawing on the diaries and letters of allied soldiers and diplomats, he paints a vivid portrait of the war. Although their cause ended just as quickly as it began, the Boxers would inspire Chinese nationalists--including a young Mao Zedong--for decades to come.


Probably like a lot of people who are fascinated by China, and by the Opium Wars and what came afterwards, as well as the Boxer Rebellion, I was looking forward to reading the book. I understand that in order to make non-fiction more exciting and less dull, a lot of authors often add details and attempt to weave a narrative out of what they know. Unfortunately this did a poor job of weaving the narrative, and it added a lot to my confusion when I was reading the story because a whole lot of background info is given which is a bit of a no-no for a narrative type story.


 I don't think I'll read it

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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