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.

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3 thoughts on “A Brief History of the Samurai

  1. Still reading through it, but it’s amazing how many Japanese films anime I’m watching that make reference to the history you recount.

    Now, if you could just get round to writing “A brief history of Ninja”… [Paul runs away very quickly].

  2. PJ, I had people’s anime viewing very much in the forefront of my mind when I was writing. I decided to cover the main tales known to the Japanese, and then anything that would resonate with an anime fan audience. I am sure that I missed some, but I did my best!

    I was actually offered the chance to write a book about ninja about 18 months ago. I turned it down, because the publisher didn’t *actually* want to know the truth about ninja at all — they just wanted to recycle the lies. I would *love* to write a true book about ninja — but I suspect that’s a PhD waiting for someone else.

    One day there will be a Holy Blood Holy Grail-style test case for the ninja. Someone will quote from “ancient sources” that turn out to have been written last week. And they guy who forged them will then sue — the case will hinge on whether they are “true” in which case the forger has no case, or if they are “fiction”, in which case the forger must admit they are a forgery.

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