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Taiping Was Bloodier

In response to:

The Bloodiest Urban Revolution from the February 19, 2015 issue

To the Editors:

In “The Bloodiest Urban Revolution,” his review of John Merriman’s Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune [NYR, February 19], Robert O. Paxton writes that the death toll made it “the bloodiest urban revolution of the nineteenth century anywhere.”

Anywhere in Europe, perhaps. A far bloodier conflict, both urban and rural, took place in China just a few years before the suppression of the Paris Commune. An estimated twenty to thirty million people died in the Taiping Rebellion, which convulsed China from 1850 to 1864. While much of the violence took place in the southern countryside, more than one hundred thousand people were killed in three days in the final battle of Nanking (Nanjing) in 1864.

Peter Conn
Vartan Gregorian Professor of English
Professor of Education
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania