About the book (from Goodreads):
On June 20, 1900 the foreign legations at Peking were attacked by Boxers and Imperial Chinese troops, with the equivocal support of the Empress Dowager, Tz’u Hsi. The ensuing siege was to last for 55 days, and the news of it shook the world.
The Siege of the Legations was a landmark in the development of Modern China. It brought to a head the crisis in the Celestial Empire’s relations with the outside world. Its outcome exacerbated the decline of the Empire and the Manchu dynasty which had ruled China since 1644.
Peter Fleming, epitome of the enlightened gentleman explorer, traveled extensively in China and Central Asia as a correspondent of The Times (London) early in the 1930s. He interviewed survivors of the siege, and his report is as vivid today as when first published.
About the author (from Wikipedia):
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Peter Fleming OBE DL (31 May 1907 – 18 August 1971) was a British adventurer, journalist, soldier and travel writer. He was the elder brother of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond.
Fleming travelled from Moscow to Peking via the Caucasus, the Caspian, Samarkand, Tashkent, the Turksib Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railway to Peking as a special correspondent of The Times. His experiences were written up in One’s Company (1934). He then went overland in company of Ella Maillart from China via Tunganistan to India on a journey written up in News from Tartary (1936). These two books were combined as Travels in Tartary: One’s Company and News from Tartary (1941). All three volumes were published by Jonathan Cape.
According to Nicolas Clifford, for Fleming China “had the aspect of a comic opera land whose quirks and oddities became grist for the writer, rather than deserving any respect or sympathy in themselves”. In One’s Company, for example, Fleming reports that Beijing was “lacking in charm”, Harbin was a city of “no easily definable character”. Changchun was “entirely characterless”, and Shenyang was “non-descript and suburban”. However, Fleming also provides insights into Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria, which helped contemporary readers to understand Chinese resentment and resistance, and the aftermath of the Kumul Rebellion. In the course of these travels Fleming met and interviewed many prominent figures in Central Asia and China, including the Chinese Muslim General Ma Hushan, the Chinese Muslim Taoyin of Kashgar, Ma Shaowu, and Pu Yi.
Of Travels in Tartary, Owen Lattimore remarked that Fleming, who “passes for an easy-going amateur, is in fact an inspired amateur whose quick appreciation, especially of people, and original turn of phrase, echoing P. G. Wodehouse in only a very distant and cultured way, have created a unique kind of travel book”. Lattimore added that it “is only in the political news from Tartary that there is a disappointment”, as, in his view, Fleming offers “a simplified explanation, in terms of Red intrigue and Bolshevik villains, which does not make sense.