Tokugawa Ieyasu proves to be an excellent short biography written by Stephen Turnbull. The author have demonstrated once again his amazing expertise in bring forth his Japanese subject to American and English readers who may barely know who this guy was and why he is regarded so highly in Japan. The book is organized in your typical Osprey Command format. The text is only 64 pages long but yet, you get the very good understanding of who Tokugawa Ieyasu was and his personality. The maps are pretty simple but informative and I found all illustrations in this book to be quite helpful and blends in well with the narrative.
The book traces Tokugawa Ieyasu's life and career from a son of a minor warlord to Supreme Overlord of all Japan as first shogun of 265 years reign of Tokugawa shogunate. The book hit all the major highlights of his career and carefully traced a slow but deliberate rise of Ieyasu's power and dominance. He was known as the man who took control of Japan by submitting and each time he submitted, he got stronger. All this is quite easy to see as he bend his head toward Imagawa, Oda and to Toyotomi before he rose to take power.
I think the only part of the book that probably needed a closer look was the Sekigahara Campaign which requires huge amount of insights, strategy and political acumen of Tokugawa Ieyasu to pulled it off. Dr. Turnbull wasn't very clear here, making a complex situation looking simple by simply saying that this battle was between Toyotomi and Tokugawa. However, anyone reading the battle order of the Tokugawa army realized that half of it was full of Toyotomi retainers who would turn against Ieyasau if Ishida Mitsunari produce Toyotomi Hideyoshi's son and heir, Hideyori on the battlefield. Lucky for the Tokugawa side, that never happen. Ieyasu neatly painted his conflict against Ishida as a "civil war" between Toyotomi retainers that kept Hideyori and his mom neutral although Ieyasu had his eye on a bigger picture with a bigger prize. Only in hindsight, do we realized Ieyasu's real objective which was to undermined Toyotomi authority and sway Toyotomi warlords into his camp permanently. All this he was successful after winning his "civil war." Author failure to address this very important chain of event that really revealed Ieyasu's cunning nature as a politician and as a warlord was bit disappointing. He also painted Ishida Mitsunari on page 54 as one of Hideyoshi's most accomplished generals both at home and in Korea. But even in Turnbull's own two books on Japanese war in Korea, Ishida is barely mentioned outside of being a "buygo" or commissioner for Hideyoshi,,,basically like a civilian chief of staff. It was from this position he gained so much rancor from so many Japanese warlords who fought in Korea, loyal to the Toyotomi house but hating Ishida with passion. That would cause Ishida his head later on and led to the downfall of the Toyotomi short rule. But maybe I am being picky here. The author did only have 64 pages or so to work with. I didn't take any stars away for any of this.
But nevertheless, this shouldn't deter anyone from buying this informative short biography on Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the greatest men in Japanese history. It well worth reading as he accomplished what his two previous unifiers (Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi) could not do, create a lasting peace in Japan by creating a lasting and powerful dynasty that kept that peace. Ultimate warlord who created the ultimate peace for his nation. If you ever have a chance, visit Nikko Toshogu, burial place of Ieyasu. Truly a marvel to anyone's eyes and reflection of Tokugawa Ieyasu's greatness and how he regarded even today. Until then, his book will served as an excellent introduction to this old badger!!
PS: I hope Turnbull's next book will be on Oda Nobunaga.