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A Brief History of the Samurai: The True Story of the Warrior [Paperback]

Jonathan Clements
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

25 Mar 2010 A Brief History of
From a leading expert in Japanese history, this is one of the first full histories of the art and culture of the Samurai warrior. The Samurai emerged as a warrior caste in Medieval Japan and would have a powerful influence on the history and culture of the country from the next 500 years. Clements also looks at the Samurai wars that tore Japan apart in the 17th and 18th centuries and how the caste was finally demolished in the advent of the mechanized world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson Publishing (25 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845299477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845299477
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Clements is the author of many books on East Asian history, including biographies of emperors and empresses, statesmen and warriors, foreign visitors and outcast rebels. His works have been translated into over a dozen languages, including French, Spanish, Korean and Dutch, and he achieved a rare distinction when his book on the First Emperor of China was itself published in Chinese.

Product Description

About the Author

Jonathan Clements is the author of many books on East Asian history, including biographies of Empress Wu, Admiral Togo, the statesman Prince Saionji and Coxinga, the Japanese-born 'pirate king'. He divides his time between London, England and Jyvaskyla, Finland, and his website is www.muramasaindustries.com.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crackin' good book 15 Aug 2010
As someone who has always been fascinated by Samurai, I've always wanted an insight into their origins and history. This book is terrific, it gives a complete start to finish history without being bogged down in superfluous details (I like that it's "a brief..." approach). The origin of their title, Katana and social standing was a complete revelation (who would of guessed). Mr Clements' choice of stories, which he recounts in detail, are inspired, because so many of them are the basis of Japanese manga\ anime\ TV series I have seen- the history that has been turned into stories and folklore which are in turn used in fictional entertainment- inspired idea! I now know where a fictional story differs from the real history.

This book is for anyone who WANTS to know about Samurai first and Japanese history second.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Japanese history 26 Jun 2012
As someone long interested in Japanese history, I was in two minds about buying this book. On the one hand, it seemed as if it would gather a lot of the facts I'd learned at different times into an overarching narrative. However, I suspected a lot would be repetitious with not much new information. Luckily, it leaned more towards the former.
The writing style is good, carrying the story along briskly. The narrative rarely sags and covers all the major areas from the mythical beginnings to modern times. Other reviewers have commented on the lsat chapter, which focuses on modern attitudes - I thought it worthy of inclusion, and wished the section on WWII could have been a bit longer (how exactly was Bushido used to serve the needs of the state? Why did Japan have a good reputation for prisoners in the Russo-Japanese war and WWI yet go so wildy off the rails in WWII, and how did that relate to Bushido?) The sections on the more well-known areas such as the Sengoku and Edo periods were brief, as was the author's intent. However, the rise of the samurai in the Asuka, Nara and Heian periods was interesting and probably the part of the book that will be most unknown to an average reader. I enjoyed it a lot, even though the book seemed to pick up speed alarmingly towards the latter part.
One thing I did find odd was the uncritical acceptance of several classic moments of samurai mythology. It's always nice to see ninja given short shrift, but the episode of the 47 Ronin was the standard Mitford tale, with no space given to any rebuttal of the traditional parts of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brief History of the Samurai 10 Aug 2011
`A Brief History of The Samurai' as it's name suggests, is a book that explores the history of the Japanese warriors without getting bogged down in excessive jargon or boring detail.

This book explores the rise of the Samurai, the various battles they fought in, the politics of the feudal lords who commanded them, the myths surrounding them and the impact of Samurai history on modern Japan.

This is well written, very clear and engaging and whilst some passages can be a touch dry, overall this book brings a certain colour and interest to this fascinating subject. On a minor note it would have been nice to have some illustrations and maps to clarify certain points raised and the last chapter, which links the Samurai to modern Japan, was a bit spurious and out of keeping with the rest of the book. But by and large this is a fascinating and informative read. This gives enough detail to make you feel informed, whilst not becoming stale or a slog to read and the assorted battles and wars made for gripping and exciting reading.

If Japan or the Samurai interest you in the slightest then I can heartily recommend this book and if you have a more in-depth interest then this is required reading and makes for a superb primer into the Samurai and their way of life.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and vivid overview 1 April 2014
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
Jonathan Clements has done a fine job of packing a fairly complete history of the samurai into 318 pages (plus a 27-page introduction). The last 35 pages contain a surprisingly detailed list of further reading, notes on the chapters, and a fairly basic index. This may seem like rather a bulky book at first glance, until you realize that it gives you an overview of Japanese history from 645 to the present day! That's about 4 years to the page, which is pretty brisk. That's mainly because Mr Clements sticks to the role of the samurai, keeping a tight rein on any digression - so, if you are looking for a more complete history of Japan, you will naturally need to dip into the recommended further reading. What you do get includes at least three things: a rounded description of samurai culture and values, an easy-to-follow historical timeline so you know who did what and when, and last but not least a great deal of interesting story telling. There are also two maps (a big geographic one, and a smaller one showing the homes of the various clans), and a three-page set of family trees showing imperial and shogunate dynasties.
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