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Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune, by Lawrence M. Kaplan

Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. Pp. x, 314. Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 978-0-8131-2616-6.

Now largely forgotten, from the late 1890s until his death in 1912 at just a few days short of age 36, Homer Lea played a significant role in China’s revolutionary movement, a role which included access to the highest political circles on three continents and responsibility for recruiting and training some 2,000 young Chinese-American men to serve as officers for the cause.

Lea also wrote the best selling The Valor of Ignorance, on the Japanese threat in the Pacific, and The Day of the Saxon, on future of Britain and the Anglo-Saxon “race”, which were widely read and influential until the Second World War.  He also may, just possibly, have served in command of revolutionary forces during the Boxer Rebellion.  Moreover, Lea accomplished all of this despite being unfit for military service by reason of a hunch-back and being a college drop-out.  Although at various times Lea has been quite famous, notably in his life-time and during the Sino-Japanese War of 1932-1945, this work stands as the first proper biography of this unusually interesting character.  An historian with the Department of Defense, Kaplan does a good job despite limited resources, as many of Lea’s papers were destroyed after his
death, and much of his work was done clandestinely. 

An interesting, sometimes amusing read, Home Lea is particularly valuable for reminding us that clandestine international political networks and military organizations are not new developments, and not least for that reason likely to be rewarding reading for anyone interested in so-called “Fourth Generation Warfare”.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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