The Newberry Seminar on Technology, Politics, and Culture
Co-Sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University
Friday, January 30, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm
“Firearms and the Global Origins of Early Modern Japan”
William D. Johnston, Wesleyan University
A monopoly on the use of organized violence is a necessary condition for the establishment of both the early modern and the modern state. Historians of Europe have shown clearly how the rise of firearms and other technological changes helped determine battlefield outcomes, and consequently the rise of early modern political structures. Historians of Japan have often pointed out that firearms transformed the battlefield during the sixteenth century. Yet, it has not become conventional wisdom that trained companies of musketeers brought about both the demise of the traditional samurai and the rise of the early modern state by the year 1600.
This paper demonstrates how this happened, and how the appearance of the early modern state in late-sixteenth-century Japan resulted from its integration in contemporary economic, technological, and political networks with global reach. The wider conclusions contribute to the reinterpretation of Japan's "isolation" from the seventeenth century, which was less important for cutting off the country from global networks as for marking its position in them. Consequently, the "opening" of Japan in the nineteenth century did not change Japan's position in international relations so much as it re-integrated the country in global networks of political relations, economy, and technology.
Scholl Center seminars present scholars' works-in-progress. All papers are pre-circulated. If you plan to attend, you may receive a paper by contacting Ginger Shulick.
We encourage faculty members to call the seminar to the attention of graduate students.
The full schedule for this and other Scholl Center seminars is available online at our website.
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