Historically, tokugawa Samurai were a legal creation that grew out of the landed warriors of the medieval age; they came to be defined by the Tokugawa shogunate in terms of hereditary status, a right to hold public office, a right to bear arms, and a “cultural superiority” upheld through educational preferment (Smith 1988, 134). With the prominent exception of Eiko Ikegami's recent The Taming of the Samurai (1995), little has been written in English in the past two decades regarding the sociopolitical history of the samurai in Tokugawa and Meiji Japan. E. H. Norman's seminal work, Japan's Emergence as a Modern State, established the parameters of debate among American historians of Japan from the 1950s through the 1970s. Drawing on the Marxist historiography of prewar Japan, Norman interpreted the Meiji Restoration in terms of class conflict: a modified bourgeois revolution directed against a feudal Tokugawa regime, led by a coalition of lower samurai and merchants, and supported by a peasant militia (Norman [1940] 1975).

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