Academic journal article Naval War College Review

The East Asian War, 1592-1598: International Relations, Violence, and Memory

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

The East Asian War, 1592-1598: International Relations, Violence, and Memory

Article excerpt

The East Asian War, 1592-1598: International Relations, Violence, and Memory, ed. James B. Lewis. London: Routledge, 2015. 418 pages. $178.

The Japanese invasion of Korea, known in the West as the Imjin War, has been largely overlooked by Western scholars. While Stephen Hawley's The Imjin War and Kenneth Swopes's A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail are excellent works, those wishing for a more thorough treatment of some of the issues leading to the war and a more succinct history of the war itself have had to rely on Korean- or Japaneselanguage sources. However, James B. Lewis's The East Asian War, 1592-1598: International Relations, Violence, and Memory now fills the void, offering a variety of perspectives on this seminal conflict among Korea, China, and Japan.

Lewis has assembled an impressive list of international scholars representing a variety of academic specialties. This book is far more than a simple military or political history of one of Asia's largest conflicts prior to the twentieth century. It is divided into three parts, the first an examination of the international and domestic background to the conflict. Japanese and Korean scholars assess the issues that led to a deterioration of relations between Korea and Japan. Economic issues, including trade disputes, predominate in this section, and set the stage for a review of the war itself, which is the subject of the next part of the book, simply entitled "War."

The nine chapters that compose the section on the Imjin War present the reader with a wealth of information previously unavailable to an English-language audience. These chapters rely almost exclusively on either primary-source material in Japanese and Korean or secondary sources from scholars in Korea, Japan, and China who have provided their own accounts and interpretations of this conflict. Each of the belligerents gets a thorough review, covering political, military, cultural, and social forces that shaped the six-year-long tragedy that has come to be known as the Imjin War. …

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