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A History of Korea

Publisher: , 1996
Link to online store *

“Go with me to a land whose life for ages has been a mystery”, wrote a 19th-century visitor to Korea, “a land which from time unknown has kept aloof, whose people might have been the denizens of another planet”. He may not have known that in the 4th century AD they had controlled much of north-east Asia and in the 8th their ships had dominated the trade of the Yellow Sea, nor did he guess the astonishing transformation that lay ahead of Korea in the 20th century – all of which are chronicled here.

This is the first full-length general history of the country to be published in Britain, and incorporates in its early chapters Chinese and Korean material not previously published in any Western language. Beginning with the prehistoric era, the book provides a uniquely detailed treatment of the earlier periods in Korea’s evolution.

The work progresses through the era of the Three Kingdoms, Silla, Koguryo and Paekche; the Koryo period (918-1392 AD) which saw the war with the Khitan, the coming of the Mongols and the invasion of Japan; and the rule of the Yi dynasty from 1392 to 1910, which saw the flowering of Korean Confucianism, the invasion of Hideyoshi, the Manchu invasion, long periods of isolation and then the opening of the country to the West. Following this came the decades (1910-1945) when Korea was under Japanese rule; the period of the Sino-Japanese war, the Russo-Japanese war and Asian co-prosperity.

Moving towards the present day, the work concludes with the story of the two Koreas and the drawing of the line between them, South Korea’s economic successes and the adoption of a new constitution in 1987. Full and accurate records of all the significant persons and dates are provided, including events in China and Japan in so far as they involved Korea.

Richly descriptive, with an emphasis on skilfull accounts of the major occurrences, battles and court scandals of the times, this lucidly written history makes absorbing reading, and should be welcomed by the general reader.

(Text sourced from Google Books, Amazon and Goodreads. Strangely, the publisher’s website has no blurb)

LKL says:

As stated by Richard Rutt in his 2003 obituary for the author, this title is “the first book of its kind to appear in English, and still not rivalled by any other. It is a vivid and highly readable book with lyrical passages that show how Roger loved the land”‘

Entry on here.

* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.