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A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present Paperback – January 9, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0195110616 ISBN-10: 0195110617
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Narrative Nonfiction
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A Chinese saying has it that "each step changes the mountain." Likewise, each major turn in history changes how we understand what went before: as Japan now continues in an economic funk that followed but did not wipe out the "economic miracle" of the postwar period, we need to rethink our histories once again to explain the origins of prosperity, the evolution of what it means to be Japanese, and the roots of obstinacy. Gordon's clearheaded, readable, and inquisitive narrative, aimed at students and serious general readers, accomplishes this task molto con brio. Head of Harvard's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Gordon tells a sweeping and provocative story of Japan's political, economic, social, and cultural inventions of its modernity in evolving international contexts, incorporating inside viewpoints and debates. Beyond identifying the national stages (feudalism, militarism, democracy), the author innovatively emphasizes how labor unions, cultural figures, and groups in society (especially women) have been affected over time and have responded. Recommended both for general libraries and for specialist collections.
Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Industrialization and democratization in Japan have been tempestuous, and as explored in Gordon's history, their causes and effects can make for a contentious discussion among the Japanese themselves. But to grasp the historical issues, outsiders need a reliable interpretive narrator such as Gordon, a Harvard University history professor. Opening with the decline of the shogunate in the 1800s, he delicately untwines the internal and foreign pressures that culminated in civil war and the "restoration" of the emperor in 1868. The restorers who held the power feared European colonization, and their industrial and constitutional reforms to resist such a prospect upset Japanese society at its roots--Gordon's work is replete with turmoil on farm and in factory. The response to change, by intellectuals and the populace, is one theme that Gordon tracks through the present; another is nationalism. Its predatory expression in World War II, disturbingly enough, still has its Japanese apologists. After the war, however, most Japanese were more concerned with postwar reconstruction than with history, creating Japan's economic ascent up to 1990. A judicious comprehension of two centuries of Japanese history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195110617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195110616
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Neel Aroon on April 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Gordon covers the important aspects of Japanese history through time. He starts off by dealing with the Tokugawa and ends with the current political situation at the turn of the century. The appendixes provide a good account of Japanese government by listing the prime ministers and the country's election results since the end of WWII. Contemporary History of Japan focuses on important aspects of the Tokugawa regime such as its political, social and economic set up of Tokugaw Japan and focuses on its eventual downfall. The book continues with the Samurai revolution and the Meiji revolution that set the path for Japan to become a world power. Gordon then continues Japan in the early 20th centiru and how the countr began to change internallly as a result and how Japan dealt the Depressoin Crises in the 1930s, its wars with China and Russia and its eventual role in WWII and the American influence in the post WWII years. After the end of WWII, Japan becomes a dominant figure on the world stage with rapid economic growth unparalled else where in the world resulting in massive changes in society. Gordon does deal with Japanese economic troubles in the post WWII era such as the oil crises in the 1970s and the how Japanese bubble burst as well as other issues Japan is facing such as low-birth rates and changing gender roles.
Great background to Japan overall.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding book on the modern history of Japan since the early 19th century. Mr. Gordon writes exceptionally well; unlike most academics, his sentences are mercifully short. You won`t get lost in any run-on sentences that take up half a page. Having said that, however, this is not a book just for children. People who have lived in Japan for years or who have studied Japan extensively as graduate students will find something to learn in this book. The book has many appealing aspects. It devotes considerable time to discussing the lives of ordinary Japanese, and it makes for fascinating reading. The book is relatively short and can be finished in one week. Finally, the author`s emphasis on the similarities between Japan and other nations in the tumultuous modern era is most welcome. The Japanese are not a unique, bizarre people; like all people everywhere, modernity is something they have adjusted to and dealt with, with varying degrees of success and failure. Mr. Gordon`s book is well worth reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Freyja's Books on December 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book for a college course, and I'm very glad that I did. Coming from a background in U.S. history, this book helped explain a lot about why the small island nation of Japan became more powerful than its giant neighbor in China, how quickly the nation industrialized, why Pearl Harbor was attacked, what Japan's goals were in World War 2, and how Japan continued its rapid economic growth and modernization after World War 2 to become one of the greatest nations in modern history.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sarah McCallum on October 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book was easy to read and understand. I enjoyed it so much that I did not even sell it at the end of the class. I reccomend this book to anyone even remotely interested in Japanese history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Emerald on May 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to get this text for a class, but unlike most required reading, this was actually enjoyable and entertaining. Also, the book is conveniently divided into rather short sections, making it easy to read a section or two between classes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scott Whitman on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most direct and succinct textbooks I have used, Gordon streamlines the presentation of history in the interest of keeping his discussion of the material on track, and the reader engaged and focused. Though some may object to Gordon's lower use of illustrating examples and less in depth discussion of particular topics, the end result of creating a less dense textbook that is more pleasant to read and more engaging is ultimately worth it. Instructors using this as assigned reading should be sure to spend time on presenting material of focus in more depth, while students should realize that this textbook will likely not cover everything they will need to know in full depth.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Authoritative, but a little dry. If you are looking to see how any of the popular tales or Kurosawa films fit into actual Japanese history you will be disappointed. I noticed one reference to the original "47 Ronin" play, but nothing else, not even to criticize. The large body of Japanese culture now known to the west might as well have not exist. One would expect at least a passing reference to the Shinsengumi, even if just to orient the reader.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Caron on August 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Also worth reading in parallel, in Japanese, to obtain a contemporary take on the language used to convey this important period in Japan.
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