In a fine piece of scholarship, Thomas Conlan has written a book about samurai warfare that instantly cuts through the hoary myths that have skewed so many Japanese histories written in English. Here are the real samurai—professional soldiers and policemen whose loyalty could be purchased or won with promise, flesh-and-blood men just as afraid of dying as anyone else, and just as ambitious and covetous. With a clear eye and an agile pen, Conlan—one of the "new" practitioners of Japanese history to emerge in the last decade—culls primary sources and proves that the samurai did not rush to their work, but rather preferred to fight from afar. This is an important history—clearly written and beautifully illustrated—important not only to the historiography of the era, but to the scholarship of WWII as well. It is easy to see now how the Imperial Japanese Army piped the perverted the "traditions" it used to send so many men to their deaths.
Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Area of Interest
War & Society
6th through 14th Centuries