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Japan in World History

ISBN: 9780195368086 | 0195368088
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 2/4/2010

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Japan in World History will address the entire scope of Japanese history, beginning with Japan's prehistoric culture and ending with a look at Japan in the world today. The majority of large scale history books on Japan, by contrast, focus on the modern era, and those that cover the entire scope of its history are not written for general readers and do not focus on Japan's international engagement. This work will stand apart for its narration of traditional historical developments through the perspective of interactions and comparisons with the broader world. For two millennia, events on the Japanese archipelago have been influenced by Japan's location as a set of islands off the eastern coast of Eurasia, the world's largest land mass. Japanese historians have talked often about the impact of an 'island mentality' on the nation's self-image, while nationalists have discussed Japan's uniqueness, specialness, or independent development. Even the most balanced historians often see Japan's historical development in terms of alternating patterns of interaction with, and isolation from, the rest of the world. That pattern of undulating interaction will form a central focus of this history of Japan, from its earliest eras to the present. Japan in World History will examine the governmental patterns that always have grounded traditional historical accounts, along with the nature of both elite and (as the centuries unfolded) more plebeian cultural life. It also will look at the role of religion in national life, at the nation's intellectual and philosophical developments, and at military and economic institutions. And it will pay attention to several of the themes that have become increasingly important to our attempts to understand the past: gender, environment, and the experiences of ordinary people. In addition to this traditional treatment, Huffman's central focus will be Japan's role in the broader world: early on, its relative (though never total) isolation from the continental land mass to its west; later, its relations with the China-dominated regions of eastern and southeastern Asia; and eventually, its connections with the entire globe. This focus will take the work in two directions. At times, the text will consider primarily Japan's interactions with other nations: diplomatic interchanges, cultural and intellectual borrowing, economic exchange (including piracy), and military, as well as colonial, incursions. At other times, the focus will be on comparisons-on the ways in which ancient Japan adapted Chinese institutions, for example; how its responses to imperialism compared with and contrasted to those of other nations; points of connection between medieval Japanese samurai and European knights, the fact that Japan did not have an industrial revolution until the late nineteenth century. A central theme of all of this will be the repeating pattern in which periods of assimilation, then withdrawal or independence, followed times of intense interaction with other nations.

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