“Real Men Die Wrapped in Horsehide” and Other Tales of Modern Military Heroism

Sabine Frühstück, University of California, Santa Barbara

D. Colin Jaundrill. Samurai to Soldier: Remaking Military Service in Nineteenth-Century Japan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016. 248 pp. $40 (cloth).

Nicolas Schillinger. The Body and Military Masculinity in Late Qing and Early Republican China: The Art of Governing Soldiers. New York: Lexington Books, 2016. 428 pp. $110 (cloth), $104 (e-book).

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Historians D. Colin Jaundrill and Nicolas Schillinger have given us two books full of excellent reasons for historians to take the militarism of modernity most seriously. Despite the similarities across modernizing nation-states, as well as of notions of the modern man across national boundaries—on the surface at least—Jaundrill and Schillinger have two rather different puzzles to solve. In Japan, the modern soldier emerged from a long-standing warrior tradition. In China, the modern military emerged from the previous social and cultural neglect of the military; it was instead shaped to overcome the “sick man of East Asia” (dongya bingfu) notion that was omnipresent around the turn of the twentieth century.... These scholars have turned the next corner of the historical analysis of military establishments in modern East Asia. They apply different critical methodologies to show the enormity of resources that have been invested in establishing and maintaining the military. They show how militaries as institutions shape and transform societies and how they have aggressively—and sometimes subtly—shaped and reshaped social processes and identities. Now, the rest of us just need to listen—or, rather, read...