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Comment: As illustrated. 8 x cassette set tested for audio quality. Lightly-used former library set with security strip to one cassette. Good clean sound case with some superficial wear at edges.
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Samurai William Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Jun 2003

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: ISIS Audio Books (Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753117886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753117880
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,200,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Samurai William tells how, in 1598, William Adams, an English seaman of humble origin, sailed out of Rotterdam on a Danish ship en route to the East Indies. After 20 months at sea in which they survived a series of disasters, starvation and disease, Adams and a few remaining sailors floated into a harbour on the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan. Though not the first Westerner to reach Japan--Portuguese traders and Jesuit monks from Spain had arrived about 60 years earlier--Adams was the first Englishman to arrive. The impact this one man would have on future relations between East and West is the subject of this engrossing book.

After landing, Adams spent some time in prison and was nearly executed before he made an unlikely ally in Tokugawa Ieyasu, a powerful feudal lord who would later become shogun of Japan. Intrigued by the outside world and impressed with the sailor's navigational abilities, Ieyasu commissioned Adams to oversee the construction of some ships to be used for both trade and exploration. In time, Adams mastered the language and complex social customs of Japan, began teaching the shogun about geometry and mathematics and served as a translator and political counsellor to Ieyasu. For his service, he was awarded great wealth, land holdings and even a lordship, making him the first foreigner ever to be honoured as a samurai. When news of his high standing reached England, a small crew of Englishmen were sent to Japan to use Adams's political connections to open trade between the two countries.

Giles Milton, author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg does a masterful job of covering Adams's remarkable life. His narrative moves along briskly as he recounts harrowing sea adventures, fascinating details about Japanese culture and the attempts of various countries, including Holland, Portugal, Spain and England, to gain a foothold in Japan to exploit the rich trade possibilities. Samurai William is an impressive achievement and a thoroughly entertaining read. --Shawn Carkonen, --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Told with Stevensonian gusto ... A revelation (Jane Gardam, Spectator)

Anyone who enjoyed Shogun ... will love this (Lancashire Evening Post)

Samurai William is a great read and fairly romps along (What's On)

A page-turner of a book... an accessible, well-crafted piece of popularised history. (Allan Spence, The Scotsman)

Giles Milton has once again shown himself to be a master of historical narrative... a gripping tale of Jacobean derring-do, a fizzing, real-life, Boys' Own adventure underpinned by genuine scholarship. (Katie Hickman, The Sunday Times)

Giles Milton again expertly navigating the eastern seas (Economist)

Milton has brought the era to life, conveying nuances of character and the values of the time. (The Sunday Times)

The thoroughness and intelligence of his research underpins the lively confidence with which he deploys it. (The Times Literary Supplement)

Fascinating detail . . . Milton is good at portraying eccentric characters and the Englishmen's shock at the periodic brutality of the Japanese. (The Times Literary Supplement) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Feb. 2003
Format: Hardcover
When William Adams and his dying crew arrived in Japan in 1600, after nineteen months at sea, they became the first Englishmen ever to set foot on what was, for them, a completely uncharted, unknown land. The duplicitous Portuguese, who had already set up a trading post there, informed the Japanese that Adams and his men were pirates, and the Japanese imprisoned Adams for six weeks, but they did not crucify him, a common punishment in those days. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the most important ruler of the country, had been impressed, both with Adams's navigational skills and with his frank admission of dislike of the Portuguese and Jesuits, who were undermining the political and military stability of the Ieyasu's domain.
After learning the Japanese language, adopting Japanese customs and dress, and maintaining an unfailingly respectful demeanor, Adams became Ieyasu's interpreter, becoming so valuable to him that he was accorded samurai status and rewarded with a large country estate. Stranded in Japan with no means of escape, Adams became "Japanese." When English ships finally arrived more than ten years later, Adams helped them establish bases and become trusted trading partners, but he never returned "home," living his remaining 23 years in Japan, an honored and much respected man.
In this extremely fast-paced historical narrative, Milton uses primary sources to show how Japan came to be "discovered," what its values and culture were, and why the intrusion of the Europeans and the lure of trade were eventually rebuffed and the country "closed" in 1637.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K Scheffler on 29 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
A gripping, well-written account of William Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan, and the short-lived attempt by the English to expand its burgeoning Empire to this most unique country. Milton does and excellent job of piecing together the various extent contemporary accounts--including those left behind by Adams himself--into a fascinating story. One will be disappointed, however, if one expects this to be a detailed account of William Adams himself--as far as I know, an impossibility given the amount of material that he left behind. A considerable amount of the narrative deals with trade in East Asia, the workings of the Jesuits in Japan, and the English factory established at Hirado.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By NeuroSplicer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once a month, my wife organizes a thematic weekend around a favorite TV or movie series of ours. November is usually Shogun month. This year I realized that I had not read any books on the real Anji-Sama and this was the book I settled on to remedy this. With mixed results.

The book is very good in giving the surrounding events that preceded and precipitated the arrival of William Adams in Japan. The Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch missionaries and merchants that established the first European landfalls in Japan and then erected obstacles in William's way. And even tried to have him crucified.

It is also a very well researched book, with a full Notes-on-Sources, Index and Picture-Sources sections. By maintaining the original spelling and wording of the source letters, the book conveys an air of authenticity. However, all this does not save it from a mediocre end result.

The life of William Adams (who is the main selling point of this book after all) is only scantily described whereas his rise in the court of Tokugawa Ieyasu (who would later become Shogun and the first of the dynasty that ruled Japan up to the 1860's) is very rapidly passed over.

What we get, instead, is a very detailed account of how the first English Factory (or trading house) of the infamous East Indian Company was established in Japan - and how William Adams aided them in every way he could. However, this is a book I picked up to learn about about the everyday life of Samurai Williams - and not the troubles of...Richard Cocks who was head-factor of said Factory.

Not a bad book altogether. Unfortunately it does not deliver what it promises.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By slarti112 on 13 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Giles Milton writes engagingly and knowlegably about an episode of English history which sheds light upon Japanese society in the 1600's. If you are interested in history then this book will provide a fascinating look into a culture and society very different to the Western world, in an interesting and often amusing way. Well worth the read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is misleading. There is very little information in here about William Adams himself. It centres more on the British/Dutch & Spanish activities in South-Western Japan around the late 16th and early 17th centuries. If you are looking for information on Adams then this is not the best place to get it (whole chunks of his life are left by the wayside in favour of tales of shipping throughout the region by various parties). The book, however, is an entertaining read and worth spending time on, but is not a definitive source on William Adams.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Baerends on 8 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
What a great read! As a pilot on a Dutch fleet, William (then still William Adams, no samurai yet) endures a horrific journey all the way from Rotterdam to the Pacific. Just as the last crew are about to expire, they make landfill in Japan - an almost unknown country at the time (1600). Clearly William must have had tremendous social skills, to the point that he actually managed to work his way up into Japan's highest circles (despite his initial lack of knowledge of etiquette!). This was even more impressive as Portugese jesuits (the Portugese had been around in Japan for half a century already) did their worst to have him and his other crew members killed to prevent them from contaminating Japan with their protestant heresy. Thankfully this scheming came to nothing & in fact it was the jesuits who got booted out themselves as they overstayed their welcome & became too arrogant and overbearing.

The fact that the Japanese actually chose which Westerners they wanted around (and which ones they wanted out) provides a striking contrast with many other countries that got 'discovered' and where the natives were easily subdued. It appears from the book that Japanese civilisation had such a level of development (and this despite the country just going through a bad spell of anarchy and civil wars) that even the least politically correct sailors and discoverers tended to be full of admiration for how well the country was organised, the quality of roads, the beauty of the women, the discipline of the soldiers etc. In order to succeed, Westerners had to adapt, which meant not only learning to wear a kimono but also to master the elaborate court rituals.

I won't give away any of William's adventures; suffice it to say that this is a very enjoyable, compact book that I greatly recommend.
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