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Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49

Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2012 Title Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49
Author Angus Konstam Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2011 ISBN 9781849084086
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $17.95


For America, the exotic allure of “China Station” vanished with Japan’s brutal sinking of the USS Panay in December 1937.

For 40 years, steel gunboats from several nations had plowed the mighty Yangtze River.  They stood as symbols of stability amidst China’s widespread chaos and anarchy.  And with a brief break during World War II, they continued safeguarding Western interests until the triumph of Mao Zedong’s Communist forces in 1949.

Angus Konstam outlines the whole terrific tale in Osprey’s fascinating Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49.  And what an absorbing account it is!

Konstam’s little book begins with the 1858 Treaty of Tientsin – the first of several “unequal” international agreements eroding Chinese sovereignty, commerce, and power.  After helpful introductory notes, contents segue to a handy history of Yangtze patrols from the late 19th century through the HMS Amethyst incident in 1947.

Text then shifts to the design and deployment of steel gunboats to China by British, American, Japanese, German, French, and Italian navies.  An entertaining “life on the gunboats” segment follows.  And coverage concludes with separate chapters detailing principal British and American Yangtze vessels.

Admirably indexed and ably illustrated, Osprey’s splendid Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49 also unearths nuggets like the miniscule Portuguese Macao and ex-Spanish units pressed into U.S. service after 1898’s Spanish-American War.  Helpful sidebars, chronology, and bibliography supplement this riveting page-turner.

Robustly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!