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A definitive and compelling history of Japan details the tumultuous political, economic, and social change, over four centures, that molded Japan into a modern world power by bringing to life the many historical figures who helped build a successful and strong nation.
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James L. McClain is professor of history at Brown University. He is the author of three other books on Japanese history.From Publishers Weekly:
McClain takes a multifaceted, nuanced look at Japan's last four centuries. A professor of history at Brown University, McClain begins with the investiture of Tokugawa Ieyasu as shogun in 1603, then leads the reader from daimyo castles of the 17th and 18th centuries to the filthy barracks of mine workers in the 19th century, to the refined, "cultured houses" of the emerging urban middle class in the 20th century. Equally adept at describing religious and intellectual currents, economic development, political maneuverings and the special problems faced by women and marginalized groups like Koreans and the Ainu, McClain draws on the most current studies of Japanese history. Throughout, he is evenhanded in his choice of subject matter and source. He acknowledges the contributions of the industrial giants, but gives voice to the rural poor, factory workers and victims of industrial pollution. He describes the geopolitical realities that drove Japan to empire but also unflinchingly details the horrors of war. More than a mere description of how Japan became a leading nation of the 20th century, this is a story with room for the pronouncements of emperors, the poetry of Basho and the demands of labor leaders. A newcomer to the subject may be daunted at first by the sheer volume of information, but McClain soon puts the reader at ease with his mastery of the subject and his clear, precise prose. Some readers may wonder at his decision to overlook events such as the Ako incident in the chapters on the Tokugawa era or Aum Shinrikyo's gassing of the Tokyo subway in his discussion of contemporary Japan, but overall this is a remarkable achievement. 70 illus. not seen by PW.
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