New: A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592-1598

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It’s always a pleasure to receive a book about military history that’s a bit outside of my primary focus because invariably I learn something that informs my study. The good folks at the University of Oklahoma Press sent me a review copy of a new book by Kenneth M. Swope, A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592-1598. The book becomes Volume 20 of the Campaigns & Commanders Series edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin from Temple University.

A Dragon's Head

Professor Swope (left) has labeled this conflict, which included Japan, China, and Korea, as “the first great Asian War.” His is the first full-length scholarly study in English of a six year military event was pivotal to the history of warfare, drove advancement in military technologies, and produced naval battles that rivaled any in Europe.

Impressive is an extremely rich Bibliography, solid Notes, and a “Selected Chinese Character List. Swope also provides a “Dramatis Personae” section to assist with keeping the long list of players straight, a table of “Chinese Weights and Measures,” and a “Timeline of the War.” Eleven maps and fifteen illustrations are also included, the latter not for the squeamish.

I’ll be making time to read. Here’s a snippet from the Introduction…

Tucked away in a back alley of Kyoto, largely ignored amid the temples, pagodas, castles, and teahouses, stands a curious monument to the cold, calculating callousness of war in early modern East Asia. Called “Kyoto‘s least mentioned and most-often-avoided tourist attractions” by one scholar, the Mimizuka (Mound of Ears) and children’s playground actually contains what is left of thousands of severed and pickled Chines and Korean noses sent back to Japan’s overlord and instigator of the First Great East Asian War of 1592-98, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98).

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Because heads, the normal proof offered to gain rewards for one’s deeds in battle in Japan, were too large and unwieldy to ship overseas, the Japanese resorted to severing the noses of slain foes and sending them home to satisfy the kampaku’s thirst for revenge against those who refused to accept his primacy in East Asia. Hideyoshi‘s men were assigned a quota of three Korean (or Chinese) noses per soldier. Although modern estimates vary, it is generally accepted that 100,000-200,000 noses eventually reached Japan, though some Koreans apparently survived the ordeal and spent the rest of their days without noses.

A photo of a Mimizuka shrine. Used with the permission of Nils Ferry (planetkyoto.com). {{CopyrightedFreeUse}})

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The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon by Jeremy Black

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TheWarof1812

The good folks at the University of Oklahoma Press forwarded a review copy of Jeremy Black’s new book, The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon. In my usual fashion, I am making an initial post about the book before a full reading.

ISBN: 978-0-8061-4078-0
Hardcover
288 pages
6″ x 9″ x 0″
1 B&W Illus., 3 Maps
Published: 2009, Oklahoma University Press

Jeremy Black

Jeremy Black (Photo: athens.edu)

The quick perusal reveals several compelling reasons for recommending the book. First, it is written from “an Atlantic vantage point, which accounts for its contribution to the academic coverage of the war as the latter tend to reflect national perspectives, mostly American, but also Canadian.” (Black, xiv) It goes without saying that any serious scholar of military history would seek out the work of historians and indeed primary sources providing insights from a variety of vantage points. Second, Black speaks to the impact of the war not only on America but also on Canada. Black speculates on how the history of the United States would have been very different had it expanded into Canada, “not the least because the slave states of the South would have been in a decided minority.” (Black, xii) Third, Black covers the naval operations so crucial to the war’s outcome. Fourth, the books addresses the consequences of the war. Black discusses the war’s “impact on America’s politics, public culture, economy, and territorial expansion” as being even more important than the military results. (Black, xiii) Finally, the book promises to explore the implications of unwanted expeditionary war, a topic with relevancy today.

Professor Black’s new book is Volume 21 in the Campaigns and Commanders Series. Black, a prolific writer, has authored more than seventy (70) books. He is Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. He has lectured extensively around the world.

The Campaigns and Commanders Series at the University of Oklahoma Press include the following:


Title Volume Author(s)
The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon 21 By Jeremy Black
A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail 20 By Kenneth M. Swope
With Zeal and with Bayonets Only 19 Matthew H. Spring
Once Upon a Time in War 18 Robert E. Humphrey
Borrowed Soldiers 17 Mitchell A. Yockelson;
The Far Reaches of Empire 16 John Grenier
Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible 15 John G. Gallaher
Three Days in the Shenandoah 14 Gary Ecelbarger
George Thomas 13 Christopher J. Einolf
Volunteers on the Veld 12 Stephen M. Miller
The Black Hawk War of 1832 10 Patrick J. Jung
William Harding Carter and the American Army 9 Ronald G. Machoian
Blood in the Argonne 8 Alan D Gaff
Blue Water Creek and the First Sioux War, 1854-1856 6 R. Eli Paul
The Uncivil War 5 Robert R. Mackey
Bayonets in the Wilderness 4 Alan D Gaff
Washita 3 Jerome A. Greene
Morning Star Dawn 2 Jerome A. Greene
Napoleon and Berlin 1 Michael V. Leggiere
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Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane

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Jayhawkers

ISBN: 978-0-8061-3999-9
Cloth
352 pages
12 b&w illus., 1 map
Published: 2009-04-30

JHLane

Carte d' visite of James Henry Lane, 1814-1866 Photographer: Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.) Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-MSS-44297-33-037 (b&w negative)

The good folks at the University of Oklahoma Press sent me a review copy yesterday of Bryce Benedict’s Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane. In my usual fashion, I’m posting a few comments prior to a thorough reading.

I live on the borders of Missouri and Kansas so confess some considerable fascination with both Jim Lane and the evolution of war in the towns and farmlands of this part of the Western theater. Lane, a Kansas senator and strong advocate of Lincoln, was a player. Benedict identifies Lincoln himself as having given Lane authority “to raise and command two volunteer regiments.” Lane used them to harass Missourians with violence, theft, and destruction of property in a manner foreshadowing that of Sherman. Benedict posits that Lane thus embraced the notion of “total war” as a means of disabling the enemy’s war machine before it became more widely adopted as a strategy of the Union.

The photo of Lane on the cover (above) was a brilliant choice. After perusing the Library of Congress and finding  his carte d’visite (left), it becomes clear that the look of the man fit his personality. In the words of Milton W. Reynolds, Lane was “weird, mysterious, partially insane, partially inspired, and poetic.” He described him as having lived a “…wayward, fitful life of passion and strife, of storm and sunshine  a mysterious existence that now dwelt on the mountain-tops of expectation and the very summit of highest realization, and anon in the valley of despondency and deepest gloom.” [1] Lane committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a pistol in 1866.

Author Bryce Benedict has produced a well researched work with notes for each chapter and three appendices including considerable information about fate of the casualties of Lane’s brigade, most of whom died from disease.

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For further reading, check out these books digitized for online reading at the Library of Congress.

[1] Connelley, William Elsey, (1855-1930) James Henry Lane, the “Grim chieftain” of Kansas (Topeka: Crane, 1899). The Library of Congress Digitized Book.  LOC Call number: 9594581, Digitizing sponsor: Sloan Foundation