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Author Topic: "Bakumatsu: From Samurai to Soldiers - Japan in the 1860s". Recommended?  (Read 1158 times)

Offline SJWi

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1721
Good morning everyone .I've been intrigued by Japan in the mid 19th century and the beautiful Boshin War figures available from Bac Minh miniatures  .I have the Osprey on the period but have spotted the book in my thread title which seems to be the third volume in a series produced by Zeughaus publications of Germany. I have their books on Maximinus Thrax and the Hussites so know there production standards are very high. There are very positive reviews on amazon for the first two volumes but nothing for this volume. Before I spend close to £30 I wondered if anyone more knowledgeable than I has a view on whether it is worth buying?


Offline Osmoses

  • Scientist
  • Posts: 490
    • Tenka Fubu: Sengoku Jidai 'blog
My friend, who is more into Boshin War than me, has a copy and he says it's very good. I've only had a flick through but it seems like a decent wargamer-friendly overview, similar to Weber's two Sengoku books, and definitely better than the Osprey. I can't think of a better volume on the period in English with the kind of information wargamers want.

Offline Mudyinsquall

  • Bookworm
  • Posts: 77
Absolutely amazing book, I own most of the period books and this book was well overdue. The artwork/information on domains and flags alone is so thorough.

If you have even an inkling of interest in the period, get it.

Offline SJWi

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1721
Thanks for the positive recommendations.

Offline rokurota

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1046
    • Bac Ninh Miniatures
This book is superb, maybe the best book in English language about the Boshin war.

Twitter account @BacNinh_Minis

Offline EnclavedMicrostate

  • Librarian
  • Posts: 125
I'll be the mixed review here:

There's a lot in here that's very good, and I still recommend it on the whole. There are, however, a small handful of issues that stuck out to me as I was reading, which are what sort of take it from a potential 9/10 to more of an 8:

  • While I try not to get too bogged down in technical language, said technical language can sometimes be less clear than one might like: the term 'Enfield' is bandied about frequently, but when there is apparent context it is clear that the term is sometimes being used for the P1853 muzzle-loader and sometimes the Snider-Enfield breech-loader, but there is not always such context. Similarly, there is an occasional source of confusion with the use of 'musket', i.e. in a given sentence, is the term only referring to smoothbores or does it also include rifled muskets?
  • Some maps and charts have forgotten to translate certain terms from German (which is fine since I can read it, but will not be true for everyone!)
  • Citations are not quite as dense or as closely referenced as I'd have liked, especially as someone with access to a lot of the books and articles cited. While a synthetic work, it's clear Weber has drawn on a decent amount of academic literature in three languages, and it'd have been nice to get a clearer sense of where each section came from, rather than just the most technically dense aspects.
  • A more minor point, but Weber clearly hasn't read Nyri Bakkalian's work on the Northern Alliance, in which she argues (persuasively to my admittedly dilettante eye) that the Northern Alliance was motivated by regional particularism and not Shogunate loyalism.

But yes, get the book.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2024, 12:45:08 PM by EnclavedMicrostate »

Offline SJWi

  • Mastermind
  • Posts: 1721
Chaps, thanks. I've just taken delivery of my copy so will make my own mind up fairly soon.

Offline EnclavedMicrostate

  • Librarian
  • Posts: 125
Sorry, a very late point, but this struck me earlier as I was trying to use the book for information on dates and wondered why on earth it said Ueno fell in May 1868, not July, and finally remembered a bizarre decision from early on in the book which I think is a genuinely serious issue that is really worth noting:

Weber decided that instead of converting lunar calendar dates to Gregorian, they would all be kept. This has precedent; Conrad Totman's seminal work on the fall of the Shogunate does the same. However, for some ungodly reason, Weber, or his translator(s?), or his editors, decided that instead of doing either of the the normal conventions, i.e. the long-form approach ('the first day of the eighth month' or 'the tenth day of the third month') or the numerical approach (08/01 and 03/10 respectively, if going month-day rather than day-month), that the Julian/Gregorian month names would be used instead. Hence, the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, which began on the third day of the first month of the Boshin year (27 January 1868), instead begins on 3 January 1868. The Battle of Ueno is rendered as happening on 15 May 1868 because it was the fifteenth day of the fifth month, but that was actually 4 July by the Gregorian calendar. I don't recall if and how Weber deals with the fact that 1868 was a leap year in the lunar system, and thus had an intercalary month (lasting from 22 May to 19 June in the Gregorian calendar) – fortunately that was a quieter period for the war, but still.

Offline Byblos

  • Mad Scientist
  • Posts: 878
  • Les Echelles du Levant ...
It's an very interesting book , reading it i learned a lot of things !


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