Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912

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Columbia University Press, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 922 pages
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When Emperor Meiji began his rule, in 1867, Japan was a splintered empire, dominated by the shogun and the daimyos, who ruled over the country's more than 250 decentralized domains and who were, in the main, cut off from the outside world, staunchly antiforeign, and committed to the traditions of the past. Before long, the shogun surrendered to the emperor, a new constitution was adopted, and Japan emerged as a modern, industrialized state.

Despite the length of his reign, little has been written about the strangely obscured figure of Meiji himself, the first emperor ever to meet a European. Most historians discuss the period that takes his name while barely mentioning the man, assuming that he had no real involvement in affairs of state. Even Japanese who believe Meiji to have been their nation's greatest ruler may have trouble recalling a single personal accomplishment that might account for such a glorious reputation. Renowned Japan scholar Donald Keene sifts the available evidence to present a rich portrait not only of Meiji but also of rapid and sometimes violent change during this pivotal period in Japan's history.

In this vivid and engrossing biography, we move with the emperor through his early, traditional education; join in the formal processions that acquainted the young emperor with his country and its people; observe his behavior in court, his marriage, and his relationships with various consorts; and follow his maturation into a "Confucian" sovereign dedicated to simplicity, frugality, and hard work. Later, during Japan's wars with China and Russia, we witness Meiji's struggle to reconcile his personal commitment to peace and his nation's increasingly militarized experience of modernization. Emperor of Japan conveys in sparkling prose the complexity of the man and offers an unrivaled portrait of Japan in a period of unique interest.


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User Review  - walbat - LibraryThing

This is a well-written, scholarly examination of the life of Mutsuhito, posthumously known as the Meiji Emperor, a critical figure in Japan's rapid 19th century transformation from secluded feudalism ... Read full review

Emperor of Japan: Meiji and his world, 1852-1912

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

During the Meiji era (1868-1912), Japan entered world politics as a modernizing and ambitious imperial power. Previous studies of this era largely slighted the emperor himself, but Keene (Shincho ... Read full review

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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. By DONALD KEENE. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. 928 pp. $39.50 (cloth). ...
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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912
Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. By Donald Keene. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Pp. xiii, 922. $39.50.) ...
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Modern Mikado. By DENNIS WASHBURN. EMPEROR OF JAPAN Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. By Donald Keene. Illustrated. 922 pp. New York: ...
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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. Donald Keene. Paper, 928 pages, 20 photos ISBN: 978-0-231-12341-9 $26.95 / £15.95. May, 2002 ...
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About the author (2002)

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. During the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

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