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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

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on 11 May 2017
A valuable yet fun-to-read book to introduce anyone to the history of samurai. I love history and always have, such that I even studied history at university - but no matter how much one loves history, many texts, like monographs, are fairly inaccessible or hard to get through by virtue of just being a bit dull. Clements' book, on the other hand, contains plenty of valuable material for anyone looking to learn more about samurai whilst staying an enjoyable read. Hats off to Clements, because a good history text does not necessarily a good read make.
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on 6 March 2017
An easy to read book on a confusing subject, I enjoyed it. It is what it said, a brief history, covering a 1,000 years.
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on 24 May 2017
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on 18 July 2017
What can I say? Just BRILLIANT
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on 8 May 2017
Arrival swift and undamaged, although it did not as many pages as was listed. Interesting book although little more than an introduction to this subject
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on 26 June 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. Stephen Turnbull's title 'The Revenge of the 47 Ronin' gives a very different look on the classic tale - this book was published later than 'A Brief History of the Samurai', yet it's strange that Clements makes no attempt to examine this, seeing as he debunks other popular stories. His version of the battle of Nagashino is also a trifle outdated, to the best of my knowledge; at the very least, the emphasis given to the arquebuses is a matter of some dispute. However, these are minor flaws in the grand scheme of things. A good introduction with more scope than the usual Sengoku period fare.
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on 15 August 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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on 20 June 2014
I found the overall history content fascinating as did not know much about Japan. By isolating themselves from the West their development was so different and interesting. I did not realise how much power the Samurai used to have in the country, basically a military regime with the Emperor as a figurehead. Despite being a 'brief' history the battles seemed endless with incredible detail and complicated names (for me). I took a morbid curiosity in the constant brutality and cruelty and the frequency with which hari-kari was performed, the details of which are shocking. A more painful way to commit suicide can't be imagined. Brave or mad? I was quite relieved when the Samurai lost their power and the country was more or less forced to interact with the rest of the world.
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on 28 April 2015
I knew almost nothing about the samurai before I read this book apart from having watched a few Japanese films so I cannot comment on the accuracy. However the extensive notes at the end evidence that this is obviously well researched and he supports arguments he makes. Importantly the book is incredibly entertaining and well written. I can't say I want to read another book about the samurai but I think that is largely because this book has satiated my interest in the topic.
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VINE VOICEon 9 October 2014
As the name suggests, this book tells the story of the samurai from the rise of the earliest warrior clans of Japan to the end of the Second World War in a brief and concise manner before ending with a look on the effect samurai have had on Japanese media and visa versa.

The book is well written with an easy to read style that kept my interest a lot better than some other history books that I have read in the past. The author includes both the political intrigues (something I have always been interested in) and important battles of the samurai world, presenting the information very nicely. I have read a couple of other books by Jonathan Cements (his books on Empress Wu and the First Emperor of China) and I did enjoy both of them as well so I will definitely be looking for more of his work.

I would say that, although some parts of the book are described a little too briefly for my liking, the book was generally quite informative for someone like myself who is relatively new to Japanese history and a good place to start before looking further into the subject. Overall I would give this book a solid four stars.
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