Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 - Noel Perrin
A very interesting short study of the use of firearms in Japan: why did they, after adopting them in the 16th century with great success, stop using them (a lot to do with aristocratic culture), and how (the Tokugawa shogunate managed to establish a single centralized manufactury and government monopoly, which could be shut down, plus widespread disinterest meant that no one was really trying to break the monopoly). The author points out that Japan was by no means "backward" during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, developing non-military technology of all sorts, and enjoying great prosperity along with peace and beauty. He wishes western readers to realize "First, that a no-growth economy is perfectly compatible with prosperous and civilized life. And second, that human beings are less the passive victims of their own knowledge and skills than most men in the West suppose."