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Tsunayoshi (1646-1709), the fifth Tokugawa shogun, is one of the most torious figures in Japanese history. Viewed by many as a tyrant, his policies were deemed eccentric, extreme, and urthodox. His Laws of Compassion, which made the maltreatment of dogs an offense punishable by death, earned him the nickname Dog Shogun, by which he is still popularly kwn today. However, Tsunayoshi's rule coincides with the famed Genroku era, a period of unprecedented cultural growth and prosperity that Japan would t experience again until the mid-twentieth century. It was under Tsunayoshi that for the first time in Japanese history considerable numbers of ordinary townspeople were in a financial position to acquire an education and enjoy many of the amusements previously reserved for the ruling elite.Based on a masterful re-examination of primary sources, this exciting new work by a senior scholar of the Tokugawa period maintains that Tsunayoshi's toriety stems largely from the work of samurai historians and officials who saw their privileges challenged by a ruler sympathetic to commoners. Beatrice Bodart-Bailey's insightful analysis of Tsunayoshi's background sheds new light on his personality and the policies associated with his shogunate. The Dog Shogun is a thoroughly revisionist work of Japanese political history that touches on many social, intellectual, and ecomic developments as well. As such it promises to become a standard text on late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth-century Japan.
Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey is professor of Japanese history and a founding member of the Department of Comparative Culture, Otsuma Women's University, Tokyo.