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A good introduction to a dramatic historical event

The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China - David J. Silbey

Over the course of the 19th century, China found itself facing the growing encroachment of their sovereignty by the Western powers. With the government unable to respond effectively to the challenge of economic exploitation and missionary activity, a grassroots movement sprang up in the countryside as the century came to an end. Dubbed the Boxers, they embodied the frustration that many Chinese felt with the privileges enjoyed by Westerners and Chinese converts to Christianity, which they expressed with attacks on both groups. These attacks culminated with assaults on the foreign legations in Beijing in June 1900, which prompted the Western powers to set aside their rivalries to mount a multinational relief effort that captured the imperial capital and forced a humiliating series of concessions from the imperial government.


David SIlbey's book is far from the first work on the subject. Yet it is among the best as an introduction to the event, thanks to Silbey's clear writing and lucid analysis. He does a good job of explaining the underlying issues at play, both between the Chinese and the West and among the Western powers themselves. In doing so, he sets the Rebellion squarely within the context of contemporary events, helping readers better understand the whys and hows of the rising and its outcome. Though Silbey's favoring of English-language and translated sources limits the depth of his coverage, these limitations are understandable, and don't detract from his book's usefulness as a primer to a dramatic episode in the history of both China and Western imperialism.