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Besieged in Peking: The Story of the 1900 Boxer Rising

Length: 518 pages8 hours


The Boxer Rebellion was one of the pivotal events in the creation of modern China. But it was also a clash of civilisations, simultaneously heroic and farcical, tragic and shocking, brutal and ridiculous. 

This book tells the compelling and colourful story of the 1900 rising which culminated in the siege of the eleven Foreign Legations in Peking, their relief by an international force sent up from Tientsin and the subsequent looting of the Forbidden City in Peking. 

It has spawned all kinds of myths. The defenders of the Legations have been portrayed as everything from steadfast representatives of the 'civilized' world bravely repelling the shrieking barbarian hordes of an evil Empress Dowager — 'the Chinese Jezebel' — to shallow, callous, champagne-swilling parasites who were never truly in danger. The truth lies somewhere in between. 

Much of the story is told through eye-witness accounts which are vivid and often moving. There were deeds of courage and humanity but also acts of consummate selfishness and cruelty. Above all it is a richly human story.

Diana Preston expertly puts the story into the context of society and politics at the turn of the century — a time when old orders were being challenged. Society was grappling with the debate over women's role, changing moral standards and a questioning of the old certainties of class and position. There were growing doubts about the morality of Empire and new powers were emerging such as Germany, Japan and, in particular, the USA. 

The book also shows how the Rebellion and the international reaction fit in with China's long standing and continuing troubled relationship with the outside world.

Diana Preston brings vividly to life an extraordinary historical episode.

Praise for Diana Preston:

'Remarkable book.' - Sunday Times

'Highly accomplished account.' - Independent

'Absorbing....deeply moving.' - New York Times

'Diana Preston has written a first rate book' - Times Literary Supplement

Diana Preston is a historian, writer and broadcaster. She is the author of the acclaimed; 'A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole', 'Besieged in Peking: The Story of the 1900 Boxer Rising', 'Cleopatra and Antony' and 'Before the Fall-Out. The Human Chain Reaction from Marie Curie to Hiroshima'. With her husband Michael, she has co-authored 'A Pirate of Exquisite Mind' and 'A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time'. She lives in London. 

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