CULTURES IN COLLI-SION: The Boxer Rebellion by William J. Duiker


Email this review


The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 marks a critical point in Chinese history. Years of imperialist economic activity came to a head in the siege of the foreign legation quarter in Peking; and the defeat of the ""Boxers"" (after a boxing ritual performed by these secret societies) not only gave the foreign powers a free hand in China, but also accelerated the decomposition of China's traditional political system, leading to the revolution of 1911 and beyond. Duiker (Penn State) emphasizes, at the outset, the expansion of Western merchant and missionary activity in 19th-century China, and the threat this posed for the traditional culture. He views the Boxers as a spontaneous response to this threat, rooted in an anti-foreign, reactionary impulse, which was eventually channeled by the Imperial court in a desperate attempt to regain hegemony over the country. Unfortunately, Duiker does not pursue this theme beyond the opening chapters, and only then in a superficial and general way. Instead, he settles into a standard narrative account of the Rebellion, relying on published material and some archival sources (chiefly diplomatic records). Though the book is useful as a popular history, no serious study of conflicting cultures materializes. Duiker puts his finger on the essential element, but then lets it slip from his grasp.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Presidio Press