THE SIEGE OF PEKING by Peter Fleming
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This is an extremely able, urbane account of the Boxer Rising by the author of Operation Sea Lion and several earlier books. Sixty years ago, in 1900, a force of the clandestine, popular movement of Chinese peasants known as the Boxers besieged the diplomatic representatives of eleven countries in their Peking Legations and the armed forces of eight countries took part in the relief. As part of the exaggerated European reports of the deaths of the diplomats and their families it was assumed at the time that the siege was simply the result of the Chinese capacity for folly and evil. Fleming undertakes to demonstrate that actually it was a project to which the Manchu Dynesty and the Empress Dowager devoted their main energies. He traces the causes of nineteenth century anti-foreign feeling in China due mainly to the often deplorable conduct of the European nations and the anachronistic structure of the Manchu Dynesty which had been in power since 1644 when they ousted the Mings. He describes the ineptness of the handling of the land relief forces under Sir Edward Seymour who set out on their ""adventure"" replete with full dress uniforms. He explains the bizarre state of diplomatic affairs within the besieged legation walls and the curiously myopic behavior of the members of the foreign community in Peking who had been receiving reports of Boxer massacres and uprisings for two years preceding the main event. The siege lasted for 55 days, the Boxers having been aided by the Chinese Imperial Army, and before a treaty was signed in September of 1901 the German minister had been killed. China was once again forced to pay an indemnity. A deftly executed handling of some nineteenth century blundering.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1959
Publisher: Harper