Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home


Mary Elizabeth Berry

ISBN 9780674390263

Publication date: 01/01/1989

Here is the first full-length biography in English of the most important political figure in premodern Japan.

Hideyoshi—peasant turned general, military genius, and imperial regent of Japan—is the subject of an immense legendary literature. He is best known for the conquest of Japan’s sixteenth-century warlords and the invasion of Korea. He is known, too, as an extravagant showman who rebuilt cities, erected a colossal statue of the Buddha, and entertained thousands of guests at tea parties. But his lasting contribution is as governor whose policies shaped the course of Japanese politics for almost three hundred years.

In Japan’s first experiment with federal rule, Hideyoshi successfully unified two hundred local domains under a central authority. Mary Elizabeth Berry explores the motives and forms of this new federalism which would survive in Japan until the mid-nineteenth century, as well as the philosophical question it raised: What is the proper role of government? This book reflects upon both the shifting political consciousness of the late sixteenth century and the legitimation rituals that were invoked to place change in a traditional context. It also reflects upon the architect of that change—a troubled parvenu who acted often with moderation and sometimes with explosive brutality.


  • Elizabeth Berry’s Hideyoshi is the first truly scholarly comprehensive or readable account in English of a man who was probably the most extraordinary and significant political figure in the world during the sixteenth century. No single person did more than Hideyoshi to shape the Japan of modern times.

    —Edwin O. Reischauer


  • Mary Elizabeth Berry is Class of 1944 Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 312 pages
  • 6 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center