In June 1900 the foreign legations at Peking were attacked by troops of the Boxer rebellion and Imperial Chinese troops. The ensuing siege lasted 55 days and shook the world. In this work, Peter Fleming traces its history and impact.
©1959 Peter Fleming (P)2012 Audible Ltd
One can certainly find many more current and more scholarly studies on the Boxer Rebellion. For a work written in 1959, however, Fleming's treatment of China's reaction to European imperialism is remarkably sympathetic and balanced. Moreover it's a great read so far as military history goes. The book's one bothersome issue is giving a number of quotes in French without offering translations. The narration is a perfect match for the subject.
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For fans of Charlton Heston's movie "55 Days at Peking", this is the history that inspired the movie. I knew something of the history of the Boxer Rebellion and the Allied efforts to relieve the besieged legations. Fleming's book gives great detail of the intrigue in the Chinese Imperial Court, the dithering of the Allied ministers and the bravery of the soldiers and residents of the foreign legations. Shaw-Parker's narration was a bit dry at times, but good overall.
As a youth I was thrilled by the (now) old-fashioned derring-do, color, and bravery of the movie "55 Days in Peking" with Charleston Heston, David Niven, Ava Gardner et al. The story of the "Boxer Rebellion" and its siege of the foreign legations in Peking in 1900 was drawn from this book. Well-written, well-paced, and very well read!
The only quibble is that the book reflects its provenance ( UK, 1959) when the author quotes Frenchmen in their original French and leaves their words untranslated. One supposes Peter Fleming assumed any educated person could handle a few sentences in French ;-) However, at least the French is well-pronounced by the narrator.
This is a jolly good piece of work, narrative history of another generation, the kind of which fell from popularity for many years. Reading like an adventure story, the author marshals his material with all the skill and pace that one might expect form his more famous relative. It's well read and well paced and will suit those who like their history to be easily comprehensible and fun; those looking for a more dense analysis of China at the time might find it a little wanting, however. For me, a really good listen.
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