100 books like The Company and the Shogun

By Adam Clulow,

Here are 100 books that The Company and the Shogun fans have personally recommended if you like The Company and the Shogun. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career teaching high school. I attended amazing professional development institutes, where scholars showed me how the stories I’d learned and then taught to my own students were so oversimplified that they had become factually incorrect. I was hooked. I kept wondering what else I’d gotten wrong. I earned a Ph.D. in modern US History with specialties in women’s and gender history and war and society, and now I’m an Associate Professor of History at Iowa State University and the Coordinator of ISU’s Social Studies Education Program. I focus on historical complexity and human motivations because they are the key to understanding change.

Amy's book list on books about twenteith-century U.S. History that make you rethink something you thought you already knew

Amy J. Rutenberg Why did Amy love this book?

This book is probably the first scholarly book that blew my mind and pushed me to want to know what else I had always gotten wrong.

Where, like most people I know, I had always thought that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was just a thing that happened because of “war,” this book made it clear why it happened.

The US and Japan, both diplomats and everyday people, did not choose to understand each other. Different world views, different assumptions, and plain old racism led the US and Japan into a horrific, bloody conflict with long-lasting consequences.

By John W. Dower,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked War Without Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD • AN AMERICAN BOOK AWARD FINALIST • A monumental history that has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most original and important books to be written about the war between Japan and the United States.”

In this monumental history, Professor John Dower reveals a hidden, explosive dimension of the Pacific War—race—while writing what John Toland has called “a landmark book ... a powerful, moving, and evenhanded history that is sorely needed in both America and Japan.”
 
Drawing on American and Japanese songs, slogans, cartoons, propaganda films, secret…


Book cover of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent more than a decade exploring the historic roots of Asia’s modern political problems – and discovering the accidents and mistakes that got us where we are today. I spent 22 years with BBC News, including a year in Vietnam and another in Myanmar. I’ve written four books on East and Southeast Asia and I’m an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at the London-based thinktank, Chatham House. I love breaking down old stereotypes and showing readers that the past is much more interesting than a series of clichés about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps through that, we can recognise that our future depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Bill's book list on the emergence of modern China

Bill Hayton Why did Bill love this book?

A brilliant account of the two Opium Wars showing how they have been remembered in particular ways in order to make modern political points. Lovell shows us how political operators on both sides used the question of the opium trade to further their own interests. It exposes the nasty business of imperialism but also takes down a lot of myths about the wars. The book allows us to see the conflicts both in terms of what happened at the time, and how views over those events changed over the following century and a half. She explores the international history of opium and how it became linked with racist representations of Chinese overseas and how this continues to affect relations between peoples and governments today.

By Julia Lovell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Opium War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A gripping read as well as an important one.' Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how…


Book cover of From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia

Geoffrey P. Nash Author Of From Empire to Orient: Travellers to the Middle East 1830-1926

From my list on understanding Imperialism in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I graduated from Oxford University in 1975 at a time of social and economic crisis for Great Britain. My country has since unraveled from being a world imperial power to a petty nationalist rump on the western fringes of Europe. In addition to England I’ve taught at universities in North East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, areas of the world where the British Empire once held sway. And I’ve also participated in conferences on various Middle Eastern topics in venues in the United States, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco to name but a few. Hence my fascination with the Middle East and how the Western empires have impacted upon it.

Geoffrey's book list on understanding Imperialism in the Middle East

Geoffrey P. Nash Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Published a decade after the events of 9/11, Mishra’s challenging book goes a long way to explaining the response to imperialism of indigenous activists and thinkers, not just in the Middle East, but across Asia. The story begins with Japan’s 1905 defeat of Russia and builds through biographies of original nineteenth and early twentieth-century figures like the Iranian reformer Jalal al-Din al-Afghani and China’s “first iconic modern intellectual” Liang Qichao. From Pan-Asianism, through commitment to their respective countries’ modernization, Asia’s "thinkers, journalists, radicals and charismatics emerged from the ruins of empire to create an unstoppable Asian renaissance."

By Pankaj Mishra,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked From the Ruins of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Financial Times and The Economist Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A SURPRISING, GRIPPING NARRATIVE DEPICTING THE THINKERS WHOSE IDEAS SHAPED CONTEMPORARY CHINA, INDIA, AND THE MUSLIM WORLD

A little more than a century ago, independent thinkers across Asia sought to frame a distinct intellectual tradition that would inspire the continent's rise to dominance. Yet this did not come to pass, and today those thinkers―Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yat-sen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire―are seen as…


Book cover of The Making of Japanese Manchuria, 1904-1932

Jeremy A. Yellen Author Of The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War

From my list on the Japanese Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jeremy A. Yellen is a historian at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on modern Japan’s international, diplomatic, and political history. He maintains a strong interest in the history of international relations and international order.

Jeremy's book list on the Japanese Empire

Jeremy A. Yellen Why did Jeremy love this book?

This skillful history links politics, economics, and military concerns to the development of Japan’s empire in Manchuria. Beginning with the end of the Russo-Japanese War and concluding with the takeover of Manchuria from 1931, Yoshihisa Tak Matsusaka shows how Manchuria remained a looming presence within Japanese political life. More strikingly, he argues against the idea that Japanese imperialism in the 1930s represented a radical break from the past. Far from it, he shows the construction of Manchukuo and Japanese foreign policy “as the denouement of an older story as much as the beginning of a new.”  

By Yoshihisa Tak Matsusaka,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Making of Japanese Manchuria, 1904-1932 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of Japanese involvement in northeast China, the author argues that Japan's military seizure of Manchuria in September 1931 was founded on three decades of infiltration of the area. This incremental empire-building and its effect on Japan are the focuses of this book.

The principal agency in the piecemeal growth of Japanese colonization was the South Manchurian Railway Company, and by the mid-1920s Japan had a deeply entrenched presence in Manchuria and exercised a dominant economic and political influence over the area. Japanese colonial expansion in Manchuria also loomed large in Japanese politics, military policy, economic development, and…


Book cover of Kaempfer's Japan: Tokugawa Culture Observed

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis Author Of Samurai: An Encyclopedia of Japan's Cultured Warriors

From my list on Tokugawa Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent all of my career teaching and writing about Japan. Within that country’s long history, the Tokugawa or early modern period (1600-1868) has always fascinated me, going back to my teenage years when I went to Japanese film festivals in Boston with my father and brothers. This fascination stems in part from the period’s vibrancy, color, drama, and the wealth of historical documentation about it that has survived warfare as well as the ravages of time. From these rich sources of knowledge, historians and other scholars have been able to weave rich narratives of Japan’s early modern past.

Constantine's book list on Tokugawa Japan

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis Why did Constantine love this book?

This book first excited my interest in the Tokugawa period and directly led to my first two academic books on the subject. Kaempfer’s History of Japan was a best-seller from the date of its publication in London in 1727. The author was a German doctor in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, who were the only Europeans the Tokugawa rulers would allow into Japan until 1853. He was able to make two trips to the capital of Edo, likely the largest city in the world at the time, and thus was able to observe Tokugawa society broadly.

He recorded important events (such as meeting the shogun) as well as the mundane minutiae of life. It is, hands down, the best informed and liveliest foreign account of Tokugawa Japan before the mid-19th century. Bodart-Bailey translated the text from the original German, annotated it, and wrote a very helpful…

By Englebert Kaempfer, Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kaempfer's Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Engelbert Kaempfer's work was a best-seller from the moment it was published in London in 1727 and remains one of the most valuable sources for historians of the Tokugawa period. The narrative describes what no Japanese was permitted to record (the details of the shogun's castle, for example) and what no Japanese thought worthy of recording (the minutiae of everyday life). However, all previous translations of the history oar flawed, being based on the work of an 18th century Swiss translator or that of the German editor some fifty years later who had little knowledge of Japan and resented Kaempfer's…


Book cover of Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis Author Of Samurai: An Encyclopedia of Japan's Cultured Warriors

From my list on Tokugawa Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent all of my career teaching and writing about Japan. Within that country’s long history, the Tokugawa or early modern period (1600-1868) has always fascinated me, going back to my teenage years when I went to Japanese film festivals in Boston with my father and brothers. This fascination stems in part from the period’s vibrancy, color, drama, and the wealth of historical documentation about it that has survived warfare as well as the ravages of time. From these rich sources of knowledge, historians and other scholars have been able to weave rich narratives of Japan’s early modern past.

Constantine's book list on Tokugawa Japan

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis Why did Constantine love this book?

Who could resist a book whose topics range from tea caddies, Chinese and Japanese tea bowls and paintings, severed heads, swords, falcons, and even a deified hegemon (Tokugawa Ieyasu)? This book about “things” and the famous people who collected them in the late sixteenth (before the onset of the Tokugawa period) and the first few decades of the seventeenth century uses material culture as a window into the politics and society of the military elite. It will entice those who are interested in non-linear history and the social life of things.

By Morgan Pitelka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spectacular Accumulation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Spectacular Accumulation, Morgan Pitelka investigates the significance of material culture and sociability in late sixteenth-century Japan, focusing in particular on the career and afterlife of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The story of Ieyasu illustrates the close ties between people, things, and politics and offers us insight into the role of material culture in the shift from medieval to early modern Japan and in shaping our knowledge of history.

This innovative and eloquent history of a transitional age in Japan reframes the relationship between culture and politics. Like the collection of meibutsu, or ""famous objects,""…


Book cover of Excursions in Identity: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan

Jilly Traganou Author Of The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

From my list on travel in premodern and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an architect from Greece who traveled to Japan in the 1990s as an exchange student. Visiting Japan in the early 1990s was a transformative experience. It led me to a career at the intersection of Japanese studies and spatial inquiry and expanded my architectural professional background. I did my PhD on the Tokaido road and published it as a book in 2004. Since then I have written several other books on subjects that vary from the Olympic Games to social movements. In the last 16 years, I've taught at Parsons School of Design in New York where I am a professor of architecture and urbanism. My current project is researching the role of space and design in prefigurative political movements.

Jilly's book list on travel in premodern and modern Japan

Jilly Traganou Why did Jilly love this book?

Laura Nenzi’s book discusses the role of travel in the formation of identity, using primary sources that derive from travel accounts of Edo Japan. Nenzi looks at personal travel diaries and brings an anthropological view on the subject seeing travel as a self-discovery process, while also paying attention to differences in the experience of the literati travelers and the less educated commoners for whom, with the rise of the market economy, the roads and their pleasures became more accessible. This brings to life the changes in the earlier literati tradition of the meisho (famous places) with the rise of commodification of both products (meibutsu) and religious practices.

Nenzi’s most unique contribution is shining a light on the travels of women, which still remain an elusive subject in historical narratives of Japan. Nenzi shows that the hierarchies of Edo Japan were defied by the transgressive potential of travel, as the roads…

By Laura Nenzi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Excursions in Identity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the Edo period (1600-1868), status- and gender-based expectations largely defined a person's place and identity in society. The wayfarers of the time, however, discovered that travel provided the opportunity to escape from the confines of the everyday. Cultured travelers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries wrote travel memoirs to celebrate their profession as belle-lettrists. For women in particular the open road and the blank page of the diary offered a precious opportunity to create personal hierarchies defined less by gender and more by culture and refinement.After the mid-eighteenth century - which saw the popularization of culture and the rise…


Book cover of The Making of Modern Japan

Thomas Lockley Author Of African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan

From my list on Japan’s global history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first came to Japan knowing nothing about the place I was going to live. With hindsight, that was perhaps foolish, but it started my adventure in Japanese history. At first, I stumbled through blindly, reading the odd book and watching dramas and movies for fun. But then I discovered Yasuke, an African who became samurai in 1581. He focused me, and I started reading to discover his world. History means nothing without knowing what came before and after, so I read more, and more, until suddenly, I was publishing books and articles, and appearing on Japanese TV. It has gone well beyond the African Samurai now, but I am eternally grateful to him for his guidance.

Thomas' book list on Japan’s global history

Thomas Lockley Why did Thomas love this book?

This was the first comprehensive academic history book of Japan that I read, and it is still the best. I go back to it regularly to check on details and refresh my memory. Jansen writes fluently and maintains reader engagement with a great pace, never too little information, never too much. His subject matter helps, as this period is well researched and blessed with plentiful source material to give a full picture. Highly recommended as a serious starter in Japanese history and culture.

By Marius B. Jansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Making of Modern Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magisterial in vision, sweeping in scope, this monumental work presents a seamless account of Japanese society during the modern era, from 1600 to the present. A distillation of more than fifty years' engagement with Japan and its history, it is the crowning work of our leading interpreter of the modern Japanese experience.

Since 1600 Japan has undergone three periods of wrenching social and institutional change, following the imposition of hegemonic order on feudal society by the Tokugawa shogun; the opening of Japan's ports by Commodore Perry; and defeat in World War II. The Making of Modern Japan charts these changes:…


Book cover of The Floating World

Mark Edward Harris Author Of The Way of the Japanese Bath

From my list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Master’s is in history, so books in the field are particularly of interest, especially those focused on the asides of the subject. One of the most unusual is No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. When World War II ended in 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers, mostly in the jungles of the South Pacific, refused to surrender. Onoda was one of them. For three decades, the Japanese government tried to convince him that the war was over and flush him out of his hiding place in the Philippines, but to no avail. I found it fascinating to see his confirmation bias at work and described so clearly.

Mark's book list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan

Mark Edward Harris Why did Mark love this book?

I am a big fan of Japanese art, with Japanese woodblock prints in the form of ukiyo-e and hanga at the top of the list. While James Michener might be best known for his novels, he was a very serious collector of woodblock prints and did deep research into the art form. I have in my collection this textbook on the subject, as well as his fine art limited edition books.

By James A. Michener,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Floating World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Floating World by novelist James A. Michener is a classic work on the Japanese print of the Edo period (1615-1868). Mr. Michener shows how the Japanese printmakers, cut off from revivifying contacts with the art of the rest of the world and hampered by their own governmental restrictions, were able to keep their art vital for two centuries through their vigor and determination.

For this new edition, Howard A. Link updates the scholarship and expands on many theoretical aspects introduced in Michener's study.


Book cover of Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan

Christopher Michael Blakley Author Of Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World

From my list on animal and environmental history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scholar of environmental history with a focus on human-animal relationships. I’ve also studied the histories of slavery and the African Diaspora, and in my book I’ve fused approaches from these two fields to look at how human-animal relations and networks shaped the expansion of slavery and slave trading from West Africa to the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. My scholarship is also an outgrowth of my teaching, and I regularly teach American environmental and cultural history at California State University, Northridge. I finished my PhD in history at Rutgers University, and my research has recently been funded by the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William & Mary.

Christopher's book list on animal and environmental history

Christopher Michael Blakley Why did Christopher love this book?

Jakobina Arch is an outstanding scholar of early modern Japan, and her book follows the lives and afterlives of whales in Tokugawa Japan in rich detail. The book is also an excellent international narrative, as Arch dives into the legacy of American whaling in the Pacific World that impacted the Japanese whaling industry.

By Jakobina K. Arch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bringing Whales Ashore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Japan today defends its controversial whaling expeditions by invoking tradition-but what was the historical reality? In examining the techniques and impacts of whaling during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), Jakobina Arch shows that the organized, shore-based whaling that first developed during these years bore little resemblance to modern Japanese whaling. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from whaling ledgers to recipe books and gravestones for fetal whales, she traces how the images of whales and by-products of commercial whaling were woven into the lives of people throughout Japan. Economically, Pacific Ocean resources were central in supporting the expanding Tokugawa state.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, Edo Japan, and the Netherlands?

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