the taiping rebellion - the beginning of modern china
[BRITISH PARLIAMENT, HOUSE OF LORDS]. Papers relating to the Rebellion in China, and the Trade in the Yang-Tze-Kiang River. Presented to the House of Lords by Command of Her Majesty [with:] Further Papers relating to the Rebellion in China. [with:] Further Papers relating to the Rebellion in China. London, Harrison and Sons, 1862.
Foolscap folio, three volumes in one. Modern boards with printed label on spine; pp. iv, 158, [2, sectional title], [2, imprint]; [ii], 17; [ii], 55, 5 lithographic maps and plans, one with one additional colour, 3 folding; apart from light even browning, a fine copy.
First edition of all parts, very rare due to the military character of the publication. The backdrop of the events in Ningbo province in south western China is the Christian-influenced millenarian, proto-Communist movement instigated by Hong Xiuquan, and British [opium] trade interests. The Taiping rebels were met by the British with a non-interference policy. They were however sometimes reprimanded, if their activities interfered too much with British commercial activities. Shanghai was besieged by the Taiping, and the Chinese Imperial army was under heavy attack, whilst the British Army, with Frederick Bruce as main diplomat and negotiator, defended the city, without official British approval, while the Britsh Navy continued their efforts to hunt down pirates. The Taiping fought for a decade along the lower Yangtze valley in modern-day Guangxi province. These parliamentary papers contain the exchange of letters between John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, foreign minister under the Palmerston government, and Frederick Bruce, who had acted without the government's permission but played a pivotal diplomatic role in liaising with the weakened Chinese government and the British. Other letters are between Bruce and Chinese authorities and the Navy, and British land forces. These parliamentary papers investigating the events in China are the most important source, albeit from the British perspective, of the chaotic and violent years 1861 and 1862. 'Under the Taipings, the Chinese language was simplified, and equality between men and women was decreed. All property was to be held in common, and equal distribution of the land according to a primitive form of communism was planned. Some Western-educated Taiping leaders even proposed the development of industry and the building of a Taiping democracy. The Qing dynasty was so weakened by the rebellion that it never again was able to establish an effective hold over the country. Both the Chinese communists and the Chinese Nationalists trace their origin to the Taipings' (Encyclopaedia Britannica). - Apparently two further short continuations were published in 1863 and 1864, without illustrations, which are even rarer.