A Brief History of the Samurai

My latest book, out now in the UK, and coming in May in the US — everything you always wanted to know about the samurai, but were too afraid of ritual disembowelment to ask.

The samurai were the embodiment of the Japanese martial tradition. From humble beginnings as frontiersmen and border guards, they rose in power to become the true rulers of Japan, with an ideology based on military strategy and chilling battlefield aesthetics.

This new study includes their greatest battles and worst defeats, their wars and weaponry, tradition and etiquette, and their transformation from hired swords to kingmakers, from Buddhist warlords to Christian soldiers.

Jonathan Clements examines samurai facts and fictions, as a warrior society retells great battles, dramatises heroic deeds, and aspires to a code of ethics rooted in tall tales and romanticised conflict. Looking beyond the end of Japan’s civil wars in the 17th century, this Brief History depicts the rise and fall of a samurai society in which the victorious Shogun had nobody left to fight. A closing chapter examines the shadow of the samurai in modern times, as heroes, villains, and mirrors to the Japanese soul.