The Origins of the Boxer Uprising was published in 1987 by University of California Press.Since the 1960s, the Qing archives in both Beijing and Taiwan have been opened to scholars.Additional sources such as Jiao-wu jiao-an dang (Archives on Missionary Cases) and documents from Shandong have been made public.The author, Joseph W. Esherick, was intent on using the new resources available to disprove previous notions about the Boxer Uprising.
Esherick stated in the preface of the book that he intended on disproving the ideas of Victor Purcell.Purcell's The Boxer Uprising: A Background Study, published in 1963, was the "last serious treatment" on the subject of the origins of the Boxers until Esherick's time.The major problem in Purcell's book was that Purcell believed there to be an "alleged Boxer shift from an anti-dynastic to a pro-dynastic stance." (pg xvi)Esherick sought to prove that from the very beginning the Boxers were a loyalist movement, and there never was an anti-dynastic phase.
The author's sources came from both parts of the world, places such as Shandong University, the First Historical Archives in Beijing, the Palace Museum in Taiwan, the East Asian Library of the Hoover Institution, the Stanford University Library, the University of California Library, Harvard University Library and others.Esherick also included oral history told by the people of Shandong and other focal points of Boxer activities.A key factor for some of the sources is that they weren't available to the scholars until that time.Esherick restate that fact repeatedly throughout the book.
The book began with detail background of the cults that eventually spawned the Boxers themselves.Afterwards, Esherick started a narrative of an overview of economic and political conditions in Shandong between 1898 and 1899.There is also a description of the hist