Wednesday 31 May 2023

Soldiers of the Shogun volume 2

One of Helion’s ‘Century of the Soldier’ series recent publications is ‘Soldiers of the Shogun, the Daily Life of Samurai and Soldiers in Edo Period Japan, 1603-1721 volume 2’ by Michael Fredholm von Essen begins where the previous volume left off with the start of the Edo period and the beginning of a significant change in Japan’s outlook on the world. Previously outward looking, the shogunate soon moved into enforced seclusion, which it was to maintain until the mid-nineteenth century.

The book is part military history and part social history. Japan at this time was technologically quite advanced in a number of fields, thanks in many ways to at the time welcome European influence. However, this was all to change, and the book explores what happened when the samurai class were no longer expected to fight but turned their hands to becoming policemen or fire wardens.

The purpose of the book is to provide a better understanding of how the Japanese martial expertise and the Samurai class as a whole declined alongside their integration into mainstream town life. We get extensive chapters on education, sports and religion, entertainment, crime and punishment and finally concluding remarks on the changes in society relating to soldiers and civilians. It is all fascinating stuff.

As one expects, the book is full of lovely contemporary colour artwork, numerous black and white images and some gorgeous original artwork depicting Samurai in their new civilian roles. I especially like the Japanese fire brigade officer in all his ‘fireman’ paraphernalia as well as his traditional pair of swords.

Another well chosen niche subject presented in a very readable form, this book is one I would recommend highly.

ISBN 978-1-804512-50-0. 183 pages, softback.

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