Printed before the war ended, Thrilling Stories of the Russian-Japanese War covers the 1904 – 1905 war up to the Battle of Mukden but before the final naval catastrophe at Tsushima. The title is a little misleading as the first eight chapters provides a comprehensive overview of Japanese history, the Mikado (imperial dynasty), home life and religion and the following ten chapters provide similar coverage for Russia while roughly a third of the book discusses the war and the events leading toward it. I find this as a positive as pure military history on this topic is readily available while the initial chapters provides insight into the combatant’s cultures. For example, one chapter reserves a couple paragraphs to the “Origin of Hara-Kiri” and the “Etiquette of the Sword”. We can forgive the slightly misleading title on the cover as the title page within the book sums up the content:
“A Vivid Panorama of Land and Naval Battles: a Realistic Description of Twentieth Century Warfare” and “The Awful Struggle for Japanese Freedom, the Peace and Safety of the Orient and the Protection of Helpless China from the Greed of Foreign Foes. Also a Complete History of Japan, Russia, China, Korea and Manchuria Including Progress, National Traits and Customs, Religion, Philosophy, Personal Adventure, etc.”
This is a lot of subject matter so even at 463 pages in medium print many topics are only covered in passing.
I cannot find much information online on the author, James Martin Miller “The Celebrated Historian, War Correspondent and Traveler” besides a New York Times article which requires a subscription. From the title of the NY Times article he was a Consul General at some time in his career and he has a prolific bibliography. I’d like to find out more about him as he seems to have had a career to match that of John Reed (if not, at least in the same league).
As with many other early twentieth century books rushed out during a conflict the level of detail on battles is geared towards the general public and the military historian and wargamer will not find much in the way of in depth information, especially as one of the major failings of this book is the lack of maps. There are many photos of troops, and personalities and engravings of combat scenes. I’d say the value of this book is the insight into the great power struggles in the Orient, contemporary attitudes and the attempt to view the conflict from multiple points of view. In fact the book begins with “The Japanese Point of View” written by the Japanese ambassador to the United States. I’d argue that these comprehensive books rushed out during great events (I have a couple similar ones from the Great War) where the early 20th century equivalent of a themed blog.
I was surprised to see hard cover copies of the original edition available, here (only one copy at that link (no, not mine) and other pricier options for the original) or a “classic reprint series” here. Archive.org also has a full copy online free, with various download options.