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A Modern History of Japan

From Tokugawa Times to the Present

Fourth Edition

Andrew Gordon

Publication Date - July 2019

ISBN: 9780190920555

464 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

This best-selling history of modern Japan puts the dramatic events of the recent past in historical perspective


A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, Fourth Edition, paints a richly nuanced and strikingly original portrait of the last two centuries of Japanese history. It takes students from the days of the shogunate--the feudal overlordship of the Tokugawa family--through the modernizing revolution launched by midlevel samurai in the late nineteenth century; the adoption of Western hairstyles, clothing, and military organization; and the nation's first experiments with mass democracy after World War I. Author Andrew Gordon offers the finest synthesis to date of Japan's passage through militarism, World War II, the American occupation, and the subsequent economic rollercoaster.

New to this Edition

  • Extensive additional discussions of topics in environmental history, including forestry and reforestation; dams and hydroelectric power; national parks, environmental protection, and exploitation in the twentieth century; the development of Hokkaido and its impact on the environment; earthquakes and tsunamis; and the impact of Japanese rule on the environment in Japan's colonies and occupied territories
  • New material on the place of the monarchy in education in the prewar and postwar eras
  • New perspectives on the reasons for Japan's surrender in 1945
  • Changes in employment practices since the 1980s
  • An extensive revision of the final chapter, retitled "Shock, Disaster, and the End of the Heisei Era: Beyond the 'Lost Decades'?"


  • Uses the themes of modernity and connectivity to examine modern Japanese history
  • Tells the story of modern Japan without reducing that history to stereotypes or platitudes
  • Devotes significant attention to the daily lives of ordinary people, women and men, and their political aspirations, as well as the ideas and strategies of ruling elites
  • Offers the most comprehensive treatment of the postwar era of any survey text
  • Provides the fullest treatment of social history in general, paying particular attention to women and gender relations
  • Focuses on modern Japan in a comparative and international context
  • Includes an extensive discussion of the 1990s and the early 21st century
  • Analyzes important recent developments in Japanese military/security policy, politics, and society in the 2010s, and an overall assessment of the three decades of the Heisei era (1989-2019)
  • Incorporates carefully chosen illustrations that help students to understand the material

About the Author(s)

Andrew Gordon is Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University.


"This is THE textbook on modern Japanese history: it covers all the important events and developments in Japan's modern history. The book is well written and clearly organized, making the complexities of Japan's modern history accessible to students and general readers."--Max Ward, Middlebury College

"Beautifully written and argued by one of the eminent minds and stylists in the field. Gordon convincingly situates Japan on the stage of international history as a nation whose past must be understood to comprehend the history of the modern world."--Noell Wilson, University of Mississippi

"A Modern History of Japan is the best all-around textbook for modern Japanese history on the market."--Michael H. Chiang, Regis University

Table of Contents

    Maps, Tables, and Figures
    Introduction: Enduring Imprints of the Longer Past

    1. The Tokugawa Polity

    The Tokugawa Political Settlements
    The Daimyo
    The Imperial Institution
    The Samurai
    Villagers and City-Dwellers
    The Margins of the Japanese and Japan
    2. Social and Economic Transformations
    The Seventeenth-Century Boom
    Riddles of Stagnation and Vitality
    3. The Intellectual World of Late Tokugawa
    Ideological Foundations of the Tokugawa Regime
    Cultural Diversity and Contradictions
    Reform, Critiques, and Insurgent Ideas
    4. The Overthrow of the Tokugawa
    The Western Powers and the Unequal Treaties
    The Crumbling of Tokugawa Rule
    Politics of Terror and Accommodation
    Bakufu Revival, the Satsuma-Choshu Insurgency, and Domestic Unrest
    PART 2. MODERN REVOLUTION, 1868-1905
    5. The Samurai Revolution
    Programs of Nationalist Revolution
    Political Unification and Central Bureaucracy
    Eliminating the Status System
    The Conscript Army
    Compulsory Education
    The Monarch at the Center

    Building a Rich Country
    Stances toward the World
    6. Participation and Protest
    Political Discourse and Contention
    Movement for Freedom and People's Rights
    Samurai Rebellions, Peasant Uprisings, and New Religions
    Participation for Women
    Treaty Revision and Domestic Politics
    The Meiji Constitution
    7. Social, Economic, Environmental, and Cultural Transformations
    Landlords and Tenants
    Industrial Revolution
    The Workforce and Labor Conditions
    Spread of Mass and Higher Education
    Culture and Religion
    Affirming Japanese Identity and Destiny
    8. Empire and Domestic Order
    The Trajectory to Empire
    Contexts of Empire, Capitalism, and Nation-Building
    The Turbulent World of Diet Politics
    The Era of Popular Protest
    Engineering Nationalism
    9. Economy and Society
    Wartime Boom and Postwar Bust
    Landlords, Tenants, and Rural Life
    City Life: Middle and Working Classes
    Cultural Responses to Social Change
    10. Democracy and Empire between the World Wars
    The Emergence of Party Cabinets
    The Structure of Parliamentary Government
    Ideological Challenges
    Strategies of Imperial Democratic Rule
    Japan, Asia, and the Western Powers
    11. The Depression Crisis and Responses
    Economic and Social Crisis
    Breaking the Impasse: New Departures Abroad
    Toward a New Social and Economic Order
    Toward a New Political Order
    12. Japan in Wartime
    Wider War in China
    Toward Pearl Harbor
    The Pacific War
    Mobilizing the Nation for War
    Living in the Shadow of War
    Ending the War
    Burdens and Legacies of War
    13. Occupied Japan: New Departures and Durable Structures
    Bearing the Unbearable
    The American Agenda: Demilitarize and Democratize
    Japanese Responses
    The Reverse Course
    Toward Recovery and Independence: Another Unequal Treaty?
    14. Economic and Social Transformations
    The Postwar "Economic Miracle"
    Transwar Patterns of Community, Family, School, and Work
    Shared Experiences and Standardized Lifeways of the Postwar Era
    Differences Enduring and Realigned
    Managing Social Stability and Change
    Images and Ideologies of Social Stability and Change
    15. Political Struggles and Settlements of the High-Growth Era
    Political Struggles
    The Politics of Accommodation
    Global Connections: Oil Crisis and the End of High Growth
    16. Global Power in a Polarized World: Japan in the 1980s
    New Roles in the World and New Tensions
    Economy: Thriving through the Oil Crises
    Politics: The Conservative Heyday
    Society and Culture in the Exuberant Eighties
    17. Japan's "Lost Decades": 1990s-2000s
    The End of Showa
    The Specter of a Divided Society
    Economy of the first "Lost Decade"
    The Fall and Rise of the Liberal Democratic Party
    Assessing Reforms, Explaining Recovery
    Between Asia and the West
    18. Shock, Disaster, and the End of the Hesei Era: Beyond the 'Lost Decades'?
    The Lehman Shock
    Politics of Hope and Disillusionment
    Making Sense of the Perception of Decline
    The Disasters of "3.11" and their Aftermath
    Appendix: Prime Ministers of Japan, 1885-2012
    Select Bibliography