Open Seminar

Vol. 13.

Murakami Naojirō and Iwao Seiichi: Revisiting the role of modern historiography and European sources in Japanese history

  • Date: 12th July 2019, 17:00-19:00
  • Venue: Ito International Research Center, The University of Tokyo
  • Speaker: Birgit Tremml-Werner(Historiographical Institute, The University of Tokyo)
  • Coordinator & Discussant: Fuyuko Matsukata (Historiographical Institute, The University of Tokyo)

It is a commonplace that academic history in Japan developed under the influence of Western history writing from the 1880s onwards. The reverse effects of historiographical encounters, however, have hardly been addressed. The study of Japan's official early modern encounters with the outside world and its simultaneous engagement in Southeast Asia are one example how scholarship became entangled with implicit comparisons. This lecture discusses both the empirical and methodological impact of Western sources on the extensive scholarship of the Japanese historians Murakami Naojirō (1868-1966) and Iwao Seiichi (1900-1988) and vice versa. Empirically, it looks at how Murakami and Iwao applied important tropes from the history of European maritime expansion such as merchant capitalism, individual agency and sovereign foreign relations. It moreover revisits how Leopold von Ranke's framing of early modern foreign relations featured in Murakami's location, interpretation, and institutionalisation of documents produced by and for an early modern state. In so doing, the lecture discusses how histories have been co-produced both across continents and periods and to what extent this happened as a strategy to synchronize Tokugawa Japan with Western Europe.