Allied armies attack the Peking (Beijing) palace during the Boxer Rebellion 1900
Soldiers of the Eight nation Alliance: Britain, the United States, Russia, British India, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Japan
Beginning in the 1830’s and into the middle of the 20th century, China became a major cog in the greater imperialist schemes of the West, and later Russia and Japan, bringing many different nations into conflict over the right to exploit and/or control the wealth of the country.
conversely struggled to maintain order and promote growth (economically,
socially, and politically) within their borders, heavily dependent on the corruption
and back door-deals of the Western nations, who all eagerly looked to the
crumbling Qing Empire as an untapped imperialist venture.
Boxer 'Brave' showing the movements distinct insignia and archaic weapons
The Eight Nation Alliance as it came to be known, the first truly Allied coalition and intervention force to speak of in the modern era, was formed after the rise of the Boxers and the murder of Westerners, in Beijing and surrounding provinces. Many of these Westerners were Christian missionaries. One of the major concerns from the British legations standpoint which ultimately help to spread the Boxer Rebellion was the severe drought in
Shandong province where
the movement had started and later festered. In time it became a national movement.
Soldiers of the Eight Nation Alliance Depicted in a Period Japanese Drawing
French Colonial infantry man barricades in the streets
The first contingents from most Western countries came ashore from the dreadnoughts and frigates anchored in Dagu (Taku) harbor. These were mostly naval contingents who were soon then rushed to
Battle of Tientsin & the Breaking of the Siege of the Legation Beijing
The second intervention force to engage the Boxer rebels, the Imperial Army and its rebel allies were the troopers of the Seymour Expedition, named for British admiral Edward Hobart Seymour. A combined force of predominantly British, American, and Japanese forces set out from Dagu after capturing the city in Battle of Taku (Battle of the Dagu Forts) June 1900. Despite some initial successes,
expedition became a failure due in part to Imperial Army harassment a fact
which the Admiral referred to himself in his after action report.
Admiral Edward Seymour
For many of the Allies the Boxer Rebellion was a major conflict but politically and diplomatically very few of these nations were willing to commit large forces for a sustained period of time to
Seymour's relief expedition limps through Tientsin
By the time the Battle of Tientsin (Tianjin) was fought, the first three quarters or more of the war had already been fought, with the Boxers bloodied and driven back yet again by the technological superiority of the Eight Nation Alliance. At
Russians, Americans, British, and Japanese principally, finally defeated the
Boxers in a decisive set-piece engagement. In this respect Tientsin
was the penultimate battle that broke the Boxer rebellion, and the Imperial
Chinese rising against the West.
Eventually the Allies did pierce the attackers’ lines, inflicting perhaps thousands of casualties, capturing many Boxers and ending their cause almost overnight. After the Siege the Boxer Protocols would be signed and by 1901 the conflict was over,
bid for total independence and control over their own country on hold until
after the Second World War, when the Peoples
Republic of China is proclaimed in 1949.
In the aftermath, thousands of Boxers were executed by the Chinese government who were eager to appease the West at any cost. The Japanese cracked down hard on suspected rebels executing hundreds of Boxer or Qing nationalists with their infamous samurai swords, in en masse by well trained firing squads. Already considering parts of
China under their sphere of influence and greater control the Japanese military must have been
eager to display its military capabilities to both the Chinese and the
Westerners. The Boxer Rebellion though not the first or last time that a
foreign army would battle for China, would signal the greater end to the 19th
century imperialist period, beginning in the 1820s-1830’s, continuing into the
late 1890’s at height of imperial and colonialist power globally.
Japanese and Indian troops stand at attention while Imperial Japanese officers execute Boxer rebels shortly after the end of the rebellion. For standards of content I have cropped from the original image the decapitated heads and bodies of Boxers recently executed.
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