History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth

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Columbia University Press, 1997 - History - 428 pages
Historical reconstruction is in constant tension with two other more pervasive and influential ways of "knowing" the past - experience and myth. In this long-awaited book, Paul Cohen uses the Boxer uprising of 1898-1900 - a major antiforeign explosion and watershed event in Chinese history - as a vehicle for the skillful illumination of these tensions. History in Three Keys juxtaposes the accounts of historians with those of participants and witnesses and sets these perspectives against the range of popular myths that were fashioned about the Boxers. The first part of the book tells the story of the Boxer uprising as reconstructed by historians. Part Two explores the thought, feelings, and behavior of the direct participants in the Boxer experience, individuals who, without a preconceived idea of the entire event, understood what was happening to them in a manner fundamentally different from historians. Finally, in Part Three, Cohen examines the myths surrounding the uprising in twentieth-century China - and, to a lesser extent, the West - as symbolic representations designed less to elucidate the Boxer past than to draw energy from it in the present.
 

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User Review  - daschaich - LibraryThing

History, Myth and the Boxers: "History in Three Keys" is an excellent history of the Boxer Rebellion in northern China in the late nineteenth century. Even more than that, however, it is a look at the ... Read full review

History in three keys: the boxers as event, experience, and myth

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Harvard historian Cohen presents a comprehensive and enlightening look at the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900, a bloody uprising in north China against native Christians and foreign missionaries. The ... Read full review

Contents

THE BOXERS AS EVENT
4
The Experienced Past
59
Drought and the Foreign Presence
69
Mass Spirit Possession
96
Magic and Female Pollution
119
Rumor and Rumor Panic
146
Death
173
THE BOXERS AS MYTH
218
Conclusion
289
Abbreviations
299
Glossary
375
Bibliography
383
Index
415
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About the author (1997)

Paul A. Cohen is Edith Stix Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies and History at Wellesley College and an associate at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University. His publications include the award-winning Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (Columbia).

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