When Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo harbor in July 1853, opening Japan to the West, a century and a half of economic, cultural, and occasionally violent clashes between Americans and Japanese began. Walter LaFeber, one of America's leading historians, has written the first book to tell the entire story behind the disagreements, tensions, and skirmishes between Japan - a compact, homogenous, closely knit society terrified of disorder - and America - a sprawling, open-ended society that fears economic depression and continually seeks an international marketplace. Using both American and Japanese sources, LaFeber provides the history behind the vicissitudes of rearming Japan, the present-day tensions in U.S.-Japan trade talks, Japan's continuing importance in financing America's huge deficit, and both nations' drive to develop China - a shadow that has darkened American-Japanese relations from the beginning. "Broad and deeply researched...The Clash is beautifully written, with clear arguments and no irrelevancies."-Gaddis Smith, Boston Globe "[This] work will easily become the best history of U.S.-Japanese relations in any language."
-Akira Iriye, professor of history, Harvard University "[LaFeber] succeeds brilliantly...[W]ell-researched, meticulously sourced and highly readable."-Don Oberdorfer, Washington Post Book World
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US Kirkus Review »
A scholar's perceptive rundown on the contentiousness that has defined America's relations with Japan down through the years. Drawing on archival and other sources, LaFeber (The American Age, 1988, etc.) offers an even-handed account of the deep-rooted conflicts that have kept the two nations at odds right from the start, i.e., the mid-1853 moment when Commodore Perry swept into Yedo Bay with a letter from President Millard Fillmore inviting the emperor of Japan to open his insular, feudal country (which then traded only with the Chinese and Dutch) to the US. He goes on to document the consistent way in which Washington has viewed Asia as a frontier that must remain open to trade while Tokyo (with an eye to retaining control over its foreign policy and, hence, domestic order) was ever intent on barring offshore capital and goods from home markets. At critical junctures, notes the author (History/Cornell Univ.), the focus of the resulting commercial conflicts has been mainland China; cases in point range from the pre - WW I era (when the Meiji Restoration brought Japan into the industrial age) through WW I and into the 1970s, when Japan emerged as an economic force. LaFeber also records how cultural divergences, in particular, vastly different approaches to governance, competition, and capitalism, have created constant friction over time. Closer to the present, he reviews how the Cold War's abrupt end reduced Japan's value to the US as a strategic partner in the struggle against communism, albeit without resolving many of the seemingly intractable disputes that have long kept the two rivals for Pacific Basin riches at loggerheads. A ready one-volume reference to a protracted confrontation that has consequential implications for the whole of the Global Village. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Walter LaFeber
Walter LaFeber is professor of history at Cornell University and the author of The Clash and Inevitable Revolutions.