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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Friends of the Oriental Museum Public Lecture: Dr Rebekah Clements 'Rethinking Japanese 'National Isolation' in the Tokugawa Period'

8th March 2017, 19:30, Lecture Room 009, Elvet Hill House, Durham University

Dr Rebekah Clements of Durham University, will deliver this lecture, exploring Japanese contact with the outside world during the centuries of the Tokugawa period.

According to conventional wisdom, in the 1630s the Tokugawa shogunate severed links with the outside world due to fears of Christian incursions and a Confucian contempt for trade. In the two centuries that followed – so the story goes – Japan remained isolated and in doing so missed vital stimuli from the West that might have allowed it to develop at a pace equal to that of Western nations.

Although this narrative of isolation remains a powerful idea in some contemporary accounts of the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868), historians have increasingly questioned its accuracy, pointing out that Japanese authorities merely sought to control trade not to prevent it entirely.

In this talk, which is based on research carried out for her monograph, A Cultural History of Translation in Early Modern Japan (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Rebekah will explore Japanese contact with the outside world during the centuries of the Tokugawa period. Contrary to the image of Tokugawa Japan as isolated, the period was in fact characterized by increasing interest in the outside world – and appetite that was supported by Dutch, Chinese, and Korean traders who brought foreign goods, novelties, and books for Japanese consumers. It was this early interest in foreign matters, and translation in particular, that in fact formed the basis for Japan’s seemingly miraculous leap into modernity in the 19th century after the Meiji Revolution of 1868.

This lecture is held in lecture room EH009, adjacent to the Oriental Museum). Open to all (there is a small charge for visitors).

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