Book Review: Samurai, Warfare and The State in Early Medieval Japan
Posted January 7th, 2011 at 08:26 AM by leakbrewergator
Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan is Dr. Karl Friday's contribution to the "Warfare and History" series created by Jeremy Black. I've only read a few other titles in this series, but Friday's is easily my favorite.
This work provides a stunning amount of information on the advancements in weapon technology in Japan's medieval period. A feat that is even more amazing considering the length of the book. (It's only 236 pages including an extensive notes and index section.) Friday spends a great deal of time discussing the Later Three Years War. I particularly liked this feature as I am not very familiar with this particular conflict, and it was very interesting to see the weapons and strategies used at this time.
Friday also discusses the gokenin in great deal. These men carried a great deal of responsibility in Pre-Sengoku Japan. They served the Shogunate during the Kamakura period and served all types of roles from bodyguard to warrior to administrator. These men were some of the most important people in Japan's history and Friday paints them in the appropriate light.
Friday also delves into the difference between tactics and strategy in military affairs. This is something that is usually sorely needed in any academic study of a military field. One of my favorite sub-fields within this area was Friday's discussion of mounted tactics used by the soldiers at this time. There were terrific diagrams used to show how mounted Samurai would maneuver their horse to position themselves perfectly for an attack or defense, depending on their situation.
Outside of the diagrams used for defining mounted fighting tactics, Friday uses charts and tables tremendously in this work. There were several graphic comparisons between the different weapons that were in use at the time. In fact, outside of a typical weapons manual, this work may have the most detailed information on the different tools used for warfare during this period. The tables on both military and governmental organization were also well done and very helpful.
Armor construction is one of the more confusing aspects of Samurai warfare. Fortunately, Friday does his best to describe a few of the techniques used for armor construction without becoming too reliant on jargon. His section on this area was extremely informative and is a source that I will certainly turn to for future reference on the subject.
I don't give too many books a perfect rating. I can usually find something wrong or irritating with any work. However, Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan is one of my favorite works in any subject. I really can't recommend this book high enough.
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