Samurai: A Concise History

ISBN : 9780190932947

Michael Wert
128 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Sep 2019
Send mail
  • Author is a leading scholar of Japanese and samurai history
  • A lively and approachable introduction to the samurai class and its influence on Japan
  • Critiques the role of the samurai in the media and pop culture

The idea of the sword-wielding samurai, beholden to a strict ethical code and trained in deadly martial arts, dominates popular conceptions of the samurai. As early as the late seventeenth century, they were heavily featured in literature, art, theater, and even comedy, from the Tale of the Heike to the kabuki retellings of the 47 Ronin. This legacy remains with us today in the legendary Akira Kurosawa films, the shoguns of HBO's Westworld, and countless renditions of samurai history in anime, manga, and video games. Acknowledging these common depictions, this book gives readers access to the real samurai as they lived, fought, and served.
Much as they capture the modern imagination, the samurai commanded influence over the politics, arts, philosophy and religion of their own time, and ultimately controlled Japan from the fourteenth century until their demise in the mid-nineteenth century. On and off the battlefield, whether charging an enemy on horseback or currying favor at the imperial court, their story is one of adventures and intrigues, heroics and misdeeds, unlikely victories and devastating defeats. This book traces the samurai throughout this history, exploring their roles in watershed events such as Japan's invasions of Korea at the close of the sixteenth century and the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. Coming alive in these accounts are the samurai, both famed and ordinary, who shaped Japanese history.



Chapter One: Becoming Those Who Served

Chapter Two: Early Warrior Authority
Yoritomo's Kamakura
Hojo's Kamakura
The Jokyu Order
The Mongol Incursion
Kamakura in Decline

Chapter Three: War and Culture
The Kyoto Problem
The Warrior in Combat
An Era of War
Warrior Culture
Warriors in Kyoto Culture

Chapter Four: Warriors in an Age of Peace
The Lords (daimyo)
The Samurai Life Cycle
The Commoner-Samurai Grey Zone

Chapter Five: Samurai Invention and Decline
Warrior Ideals
Commoners and Warrior Identity
Collapse and Post Restoration Warrior Legacy
Further Reading

About the author: 

Michael Wert is Associate Professor of East Asian History at Marquette University. Specializing in early modern and modern Japan, he is the author of Meiji Restoration Losers: Memory and Tokugawa Supporters in Modern Japan.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.