• A Brief History of the Samurai

  • Brief Histories
  • By: Jonathan Clements
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (304 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From a leading expert in Japanese history, this is one of the first full histories of the art and culture of the Samurai warrior. The Samurai emerged as a warrior caste in Medieval Japan and would have a powerful influence on the history and culture of the country from the next 500 years. Clements also looks at the Samurai wars that tore Japan apart in the 17th and 18th centuries and how the caste was finally demolished in the advent of the mechanized world.

©2010 Jonathan Clements (P)2014 Audible Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about A Brief History of the Samurai

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent history of Edo period Japan.

Excellent history of Edo period Japan and of Samurai history in detail. Narration well done. Years of material to digest and research.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Well narrated

Absolutely loved this audio book. The details of the samurai and the period associated with certain characters were accurate and well presented.
ありがとう

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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An Excellent History of the Samurai

Well told and superbly narrated this book is an excellent overview of the Samurai. From the start to present day we see the history, the development, and finally the demise. The book shows how the idea of Samurai was used and abused in the 20th Century for political, social and media goals. Jonathan Clements has opinions and views but generally the book covers the topic in a level handed way to make the reader (listener) feel it is balanced and objective. Just over 12 hours long, it is a brief view of the Samurai which if this subject interest you, you'll fly through and find fascinating.
Loved the book and the narrator is excellent.

6 people found this helpful

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A solid, brief overview.

What did you like best about this story?

This is a great book discussing the rise, peak and fall of the Samurai. Written by a westerner - it's accessible, but avoids western cliches about Japan and does a good job of relating cultural/historic complexities. It's a good overview; rich with the storied characters of Japan's past. The book moves along at a pleasant pace - covering nearly 700 years of history - and doesn't get mired in the innumerable details.

What about Jonathan Keeble’s performance did you like?

Jon is a great reader with a pleasant voice, accent and intonation. His voice changes for quotations were fun as well. I have no idea if he pronounced the Japanese words/names correctly, since I don't speak Japanese.

2 people found this helpful

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Good summary. Poor attempt at Japanese names.

I would say it's a great book but it was so hard to listen to the narrator screw up the pronunciation. He even says "sami rai". C'mon you can't even pronounce that right?

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not what it seems

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes but with caveat that it's not about samurai warfare or fighting skills etc. but more just history

6 people found this helpful

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Enlightening

This book shed some much needed light on an era that has always been very difficult to understand for me. It was encouraging to have the hypocrisies and contradictions surrounding this topic acknowledged, and i felt the performance was well executed. My sole complaint has to do with the terminology surrounding the Ainu and indigenous peoples and how it refers to them in a “foreign, barbaric” light. Although such viewpoints could have and most likely were common at the time, there is no reason to explain them in such a way in this book. I do appreciate their mention at all, but I would have liked more of an acknowledgment that these people still exist and are not villains solely due to their race and proximity to Japan.
I was however very happy to hear about many of the historical misconceptions and fictions, and would recommend this book to anyone who is a critical thinker.

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Somewhat dissatisfied

This is a good book with good information. However It may just be the audible version and narrator, that I found really boring. This just couldn’t keep me engaged.

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A Nice Summary

The Japanese pronunciation was pretty bad, and the re-recordings stuck out like a sore thumb, but the content was good.

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A good jumping in point

The narrative is quite broad, and naturally a bit thin in places as a consequence. In general, the author provides a good overview of the various periods, and that gives a great jumping in point for further reading. The biggest gripe I had was that it was sometimes difficult to tell just how much time was passing. The other concern, which falls squarely on my "western ear" is that distinguishing and remembering different actors is difficult without being previously familiar with Japanese names. Over all, worth the listen.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Tweetingcheetah
  • Tweetingcheetah
  • 07-27-14

Anecdotes bring life to samurai history

Any additional comments?

As a Japanese school child, Japanese History was just dates and names, but this audiobook brought these historical people and incidents to life for me. Samurai are all too often depicted through rose tinted glass, but Clements delivers the stories of human foibles with a dry sense of humour, and he got me laughing out loud often.

I have been a massive fan of European history but not of my own country, because of the way history was taught in Japan when I was a child. If this was my History textbook, I would have read it in bed.

The only reason why I gave four stars, not five, for the performance is because Keeble's pronunciation of Japanese words are often incorrect. Otherwise his delivery lets you suck into the drama of Japanese history.

It is well researched, and quotes and anecdotes are so well chosen that you cannot help but be interested in these historical characters and incidents. It is not a long book, but Clements achieves a lot, telling the story of the long era of samurai concisely, and educate and entertain you at the same time. I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in Japan or History.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-22-21

Everything is good other than the pronunciation of Japanese words

This was an engaging listen (with respect to history books in general). The performance was good overall but I have one complaint. Please, please(!) do a bit of research before narrating a book to learn how to pronounce names in another language. It shouldn’t be so hard to figure this out, right? And the people involved with making audiobooks should want to do a good job by correctly pronouncing names or words in another language, right? And it isn’t just one or two Japanese words I’m talking about, this book is about Japan! So if it was me who was narrating this book, I wouldn’t just make up pronunciations as I see fit but actually look up how these words are pronounced. Otherwise, it’s just cultural disrespect. It’s not just Western people who listen to these books about other cultures, so please, a little bit more sensitivity about other’s people’s cultures and languages.

12 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Ben Toovey
  • Ben Toovey
  • 01-31-21

Long and boring

Too much detail and very forgettable. I prefer shorter and more captivating stories and just couldn't get into this.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr S.M.R.Plocki
  • 01-03-16

Dry

Would you try another book written by Jonathan Clements or narrated by Jonathan Keeble?

Yes, but I would read any reviews first.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/a

What aspect of Jonathan Keeble’s performance might you have changed?

None really.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It was interesting in places but it listed lots of facts without being thought provoking.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Iain
  • Iain
  • 03-29-21

A srong starting point for a history of Japan

this book offers a good starting point if you want to know more about the history of Japan and the Samurai.

my one critique is that there must have been recording issues as the main narrators voice drops out to be replaced by another briefly but frequently. both have decent narrtion voices but it is slightly jarring

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Brian
  • 03-05-22

It’s just too long!

Very interesting and gives a great level of detail. However,I felt that it was repetitive and after couple of hours it didn’t seem to provide any new information. Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry on and gave up.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • victoria macdonalf
  • 02-15-22

Not really a history of Samurai

This book is more history of Japan's aristocracy than the Samurai. It is quite informative but not what I was truly looking for. It is quite long and tedious.
The narrator. . . oh dear! I have listened to Jonathan Clements narrate some detective books and apart from his VERY audible intakes of breath, I have found him ok. In this book he is sooo frustrating and annoying! His pronunciation of the Japanese words is appalling! He even butchered the name Gautama. Towards the end of the book he pronounces Samurai differently every time he says it.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Deborah Fitz-Gibbon
  • Deborah Fitz-Gibbon
  • 12-12-21

An interesting and informative introduction

The narration is clear and concise, although I can make no comment on the pronunciation of Japanese words as some other reviewers have. The writing style is precise and scholarly. I shall certainly look for other titles by the same author.

1 person found this helpful

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  • GC
  • 07-15-21

in Depth chronological work

Having spent time travelling throughout Korea and Japan I was able to associate much of the content to places and perceived historical lifestyles. I much enjoyed the well measured clear narrative but the content may be a little too detailed for a passing interest.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryuto
  • 10-22-14

Title is a Misnomer

What disappointed you about A Brief History of the Samurai?

It was actually an account of the aristocracy of Japan rather than about the Samurai themselves. A certain amount of background is required to understand the theme but the background became the bulk of this book. I'm sure a book entitle a 'Brief History of European Knights' would be disappointing if it was mainly about the Kings and Queens of Europe.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Jonathan Keeble?

Anyone who had had a brief lesson in Japanese pronunciation. It was distracting at times.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not for me, I'm afraid, I found it tedious.

Any additional comments?

Change the title to a 'Brief History of Japanese Rulers'.

4 people found this helpful