on 11 September 2009
Sadler's treatment of Ieyasu Tokugawa is perhaps rightly seen as a classic of English language works on Japanese history. This updated version of the work is a welcome chance to reacquaint yourself with Sadler's 30s work as well as get some authorial judgement from Stephen Turnbull. Turnbull quite rightly points out that the work struggles with modern standards of historiography, with a weakness in referencing a particular issue (Turnbull also discusses Sadler's interpretation of the Battle of Nagashino), whilst some may struggle with Sadler's phrasing, which though excellent, really appeals to a previous generations tastes.
The work itself is of fantastic historical interest, written in the 1930s, it was essentially a revisionist work that sought to reappraise (not uncritically) the image of Ieyasu in history, largely brought about by a negative tradition toward the shogunate following the Meiji Restoration, in this respect the work may be seen as fairly revolutionary even if now Ieyasu's role in early modern Japanese history is widely recognised. The work is also a product of its time, and it would be interesting to assess the book in terms of the influence of 1930s Japan on Sadler's interpretation of Ieyasu's rise to power (the book seems to parrallel a similar work by Syme on the Augustan Revolution).
The book itself is well structured offering a straight forward biography with some well conceived chapters on his personal views, the lives of key figures and also good background detail on the general political scene.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Japanese history, and particuarly military history.
on 22 May 2010
There seems to be a shortage of books dealing specifically with the lives of the three great 'unifiers' of Japan. A.L Sadler's book was a welcome surprise when browsing in my local bookshop one day. His prose is excellent and he presents the events in a straightforward manner.
The descriptions of Ieyasu's exploits does border on hero-worship at times and I would recommend getting Samurai Warfare by Stephen Turnbull (every book of his that I have read has been an excellent source of information on the Sengoku period), Samurai by Mitsuo Kure and Sekigahara by Anthony J. Bryant to provide a more balanced view.
That said, the book is a rewarding read for anyone looking for a straight biography instead of a military treatise.