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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 16 June 2017
A fasicinating book. Well worth a read. You see where James Cavell got his idea for Shogun from. Bxx
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on 15 August 2017
A really nice book mostly new
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on 25 July 2017
James Clavell made a world wide sensation with "Shogun"...;
Giles has actually written the real and full story, and it is actually so much better!
BRAVO!!!!
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on 30 July 2017
Good read.
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on 29 June 2006
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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on 16 July 2017
I can't believe so few people have reviewed this novel. I loved it! As with all Giles Milton's books, it is meticulously researched but (seemingly) effortlessly written. This is the incredible story of an Englishman who lands in Japan after a perilous journey. The Japanese only know the Portuguese and what they have told them of Europe (Catholic etc) so when William turns up, he puts a lot of noses out of joint, but nevertheless rises to gain the locals' respect. If you have npot read Giles Milton books - they are as readable as fiction but actually historical.
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on 27 June 2017
I came to this book because I love James Clavell's Shogun and was interested in finding out more about the man who inspired it, but I finished it disappointed.

On the one hand this book is a really interesting study of the working of the English trading factory in Japan, the micro and macro problems as well as the interesting personalities of these merchant explorers helped by a wealth of first hand evidence.

The problem is William Adams is only a cameo in his own book! It seems the real central character is Richard Cocks as seemingly confirmed by the book continuing a while after Williams death but ending shorty afters Cocks own.
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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. Though he clearly does not agree with the sense of quick justice, the immediate executions, and the brutality carried out by the Japanese in the name of justice, Milton graphically illustrates his admiration and appreciation of their courage and sense of honor, their loyalty and respect for authority, their diligence, their beautifully constructed and aesthetically pleasing gardens, and the grandeur of the palace in Edo (now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo), along with more mundane characteristics, such as their concern for hygiene and bathing and their medical practices (including acupuncture).
He sets up dramatic contrasts with the mores of the Europeans, clearly illustrating the much higher level of "civilization" that existed in Japan without the influence of the west, and it is easy to see why Ieyasu's grandson eventually banned all westerners in order to preserve his own society. Though Samurai William Adams is the real-life role model for James Clavell's Shogun, I found him far more true to life and interesting in this book. Neither romanticized nor idealized, he exists here as a man with flaws, often speaking in his own voice. His life as a seaman and his life in Japan are fascinatingly portrayed, attesting both to Milton's scholarship and his imagination as he recreates successfully the two cultures and societies in which Adams lived two very different lives. Mary Whipple
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on 1 October 2002
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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on 13 March 2003
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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