Medhurst’s life covers a fascinating period in the tumultuous East-West relationship as Western nations sought to build empires as China crumbled internally while firebrand Christians were intent on bringing their brand of religion to all parts of Asia. Holliday’s account surveys the major upheavals and changes in China, including war with the British, the Taiping Rebellion, and the scourge of opium. Medhurst crusaded against the illegal but widely accepted opium trade by exposing in official reports both the terrors of addiction and the stakeholders who profited from it, such as the East India Company.
While Medhurst and his mission of spreading his faith -- especially through print -- throughout China during the waning days of the Quing dynasty are fascinating in and of themselves, some occasionally stilted prose make for difficult reading at times. The author’s enthusiasm, an abundance of compelling period detail, and the sheer determination Medhurst and his family showed in the face of tragedy gives history- and mission-minded readers good reason to follow this journey to its end.
Takeaway: This uneven biography of evangelist Walter Medhurst’s work in 19th century China will appeal to students of missionary Christianity.
Great for fans of: Stephen R. Platt’s Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War, Jonathon D. Spence’s God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of the Xiuquan.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+