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dan RSS Feed (Fort Lee, NJ United States)

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Breaking Open Japan: Commodore Perry, Lord Abe, and American Imperialism in 1853
Breaking Open Japan: Commodore Perry, Lord Abe, and American Imperialism in 1853
by George Feifer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.56
68 used & new from $0.67

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, masterful telling, October 31, 2006
Commodore Perry's opening of Japan is an event that has faded somewhat in U.S. history, coming as it did in the years before the Civil War and well before the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor. But Feifer's scholarly, yet entertaining telling of the events deserves the attention of anyone who enjoys a good historical yarn or who seeks a better understanding of U.S. history in general.

Feifer's Breaking Open Japan is both magisterial in its understanding and colorful in its narrative. The author has a masterful knowledge of his subject--including the Japanese history that led it to the point of Perry's arrival in 1953--and he combines it with a novelist's style and an eye for detail.

The idea of any nation--especially Japan, now perhaps the world's greatest trader--being closed off from other nations is so foreign to modern eyes. But Feifer makes it understandable. He also shows how Perry's mission grew from the American sense that it had a duty to modernize, civilize, and (to some extent) Christianize the world. This is an attitude that grew through the 19th Century and into the 20th. In Perry, Feifer shows its personal embodiment.

If the book is to be faulted it is that Feifer seems to assume at least some knowledge of who Perry was and what he did. I doubt though that most Americans could recall his name. The result is that the beginning can be somewhat slow going. But as the reader warms to the fascinating, though foreign subject, Feifer's Breaking Open Japan gains focus. In the end his history is more riveting than one would have ever imagined possible. It's a huge achievement and no doubt essential for scholars of American history and Japanese history as well.

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