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The Ghost of Namamugi: Charles Lenox Richardson and the Anglo-Satsuma War
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The Ghost of Namamugi: Charles Lenox Richardson and the Anglo-Satsuma War

ISBN 978-1-898823-83-4

Robert S.G. Fletcher


In 1862 a British merchant was killed by samurai, in uncertain circumstances, at Namamugi – a quiet village near Yokohama. One year later, a British fleet bombarded the port of Kagoshima to extract reparations, reducing much of this south-western city to ash.

The Ghost of Namamugi is a captivating re-telling of this story, locating it firmly within the wider context of British imperial expansion in East Asia. In his introduction, Robert Fletcher explains how it was that the death of one young man led to the partial destruction of a city. He explores how competing contemporary images of the victim at Namamugi, Charles Lenox Richardson – to some a martyr in the cause of free trade, to others the embodiment of a bullying merchant class – have served to justify and to lament Britain’s bombardment ever since.

Making use of previously unpublished sources, The Ghost of Namamugi presents, for the first time and in full, Richardson’s personal correspondence home. Written across ten years spent living and trading at Shanghai, the Richardson letters give readers a chance to form their own judgement of the man at the centre of a nineteenth-century “outrage”.

The Ghost of Namamugi provides a window onto the thoughts, experiences and travails of a determined young merchant of the treaty port world, at a critical moment in the history of imperial expansion and conflict in the region.


"The  Ghost of Namamugi  is both a valuable document and a gripping read. It recounts the bloody murder of English merchant Charles Lenox Richardson in pre-Meiji Restoration Japan with the depth and breadth it deserves, placing it in the context of British imperial policy, treaty port life and Japan’s tumultuous exit from isolation. Fletcher explores the event’s significance with clarity, insight and discernment."    (Dr Nadine Willems, Lecturer in Japanese History, University of East Anglia)

Key Features:

  • A compelling re-examination of the ‘Namamugi Incident’: how the death of a British merchant led to the bombardment of a Japanese city
  • Illuminates the place of the incident within the history of British expansion in East Asia, and explores how it has been remembered in Japan ever since
  • Reveals the hopes, fears and frustrations of the merchant communities of the treaty ports of nineteenth-century China and Japan
  • Contains the first complete publication of the private correspondence of Charles Lenox Richardson, the man at the centre of the ‘Namamugi Incident’
  • Letters and commentary offer new insights into foreign lives in Shanghai’s International Settlement in the turbulent 1850s and 60s.


About the Author

Robert Fletcher is Associate Professor of Britain and Empire at the University of Warwick. He lived and worked in Tokushima Prefecture before gaining his doctorate at the University of Oxford. His research, which explores the interplay of imperial and global history, has appeared in Past and Present and The English Historical Review . His first book, British Imperialism and “The Tribal Question” , was published by Oxford University Press in 2015.