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Samurai to Soldier: Remaking Military Service in Nineteenth-Century Japan

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Samurai to Soldier: Remaking Military Service in Nineteenth-Century Japan
By D. Colin Jaundrill
Cornell University Press, 2016
248 pp.

More than two centuries of peace, stretching from the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, left Japanese samurai more skilled in martial arts than in martial action. Jaundrill’s impressively researched study traces the origin of the modern Japanese military to the 1840s, when one martial arts teacher introduced a more westernized style of musketry and artillery training based on the Dutch example. Samurai aristocrats resisted such regimentation. But the West’s relentless encroachment, together with internal battles between modernizing reformers and conservative feudal lords, kept up the pressure to create more effective fighting units. Soon after reformists took power in the 1868 Meiji Restoration, the new regime adopted a universal conscription law, breaking the link between service in the military and social status and consolidating the idea of a mass citizenry. By 1894, Japan was poised to defeat Qing China and win control of Korea and Taiwan.

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