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Archives and Information in the Early Modern World$

Kate Peters, Alexandra Walsham, and Liesbeth Corens

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266250

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.001.0001

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date: 30 May 2020

The Transnational Archive of the Sinosphere: The Early Modern East Asian Information Order

The Transnational Archive of the Sinosphere: The Early Modern East Asian Information Order

(p.285) 12 The Transnational Archive of the Sinosphere: The Early Modern East Asian Information Order
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World

Kiri Paramore

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues for the existence of an intellectually Confucian-centred, Classical Chinese language delivered archive of knowledge across early modern East Asia. I argue that this broad, transferable, and often commercially delivered Sinosphere archive supported the creation of state-led information orders in early modern East Asia. This argument resonates with recent work in South Asian and Global History demonstrating the role of regional early modern information orders in facilitating global flows of knowledge. I focus particularly on the transregional nature of the literary, pedagogical, and book culture that underlay the information order of early modern East Asia, and the state’s prime role in its development in early modern Japan. The article thus employs the concept of archivality to analyse early modern information systems, demonstrating patterns of trans-regional knowledge development in East Asia which resonate with other early modern global examples.

Keywords:   early modern East Asia, global history, information systems, transregionalism, transnationalism, Confucianism, Tokugawa Shogunate


THIS CHAPTER USES an enquiry into the knowledge and information history of Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate 1600–1868 to consider wider issues related to how we might think of an early modern history of information globally. The growth of ‘global history’ in the 21st century has been accompanied by an increasingly sharp critique of it. That critique often centres on global history’s modernism and/or Eurocentric nature. In a recent volume on global intellectual history Sudipta Kaviraj noted that most imaginations of global history assume ‘globality’ to be an inherently modern phenomenon. In trying to bridge the divide between pre-modern histories and current imaginations of the global Kaviraj focused on historical interactions of the early modern period.1 Indeed, early modernists have been active in developing much of the apparatus of global historical approaches since around 2007, including the ideas of multiple modernities and connected histories championed by Sanjay Subrahmanyam.2 However, the problem with much early modern history writing claiming global credentials, including the ‘connected histories’ variety, is its Eurocentric nature. The dominant (p.286) approaches to early modern connected history, notably including Subrahmanyan and his followers, almost always analyse a connectivity which ineluctably leads back to Europe. The majority of ‘connections’ discussed thereby involve links between Europe and a non-Western region or culture (usually India). Europe remains the indispensable and always central ingredient in early modern ‘connections’, even as it is allegedly decentred.3

The cause of this phenomenon sits squarely in the archive. Historians of connectivity centring on Europe can utilise the archives of the (victorious) modern empires, thereby side-stepping the great difficulty of reconstructing the (usually destroyed or at least scattered) archives of the (defeated) colonised and semi-colonised.4 The archive as a concept and the historian’s reification of it, thus sit at the centre of a paradigm which repeats familiar approaches to history built up over the past two centuries, even in movements claiming to overcome them. Over the past decades, it has ironically been the self-proclaimed imperial and colonial historians who have demonstrated most sensitivity to this problem and begun to originate thoughtful solutions. For historians such as C. A. Bayly, the problem with a global history based on European colonial sources in imperial archives was that it would always ultimately be delivered through the lens of empire. Bayly directed much of his later career to breaking through this problem. His method was to plumb the records of immediately pre-Raj Indian political and intellectual history to demonstrate the existence of pre-colonial inter-cultural (transnational, to use the modern term) information and knowledge networks.5 Bayly further challenged the whole basis of thinking about modern statecraft by emphasising how these pre-Raj Indian systems furnished much of the modern information network which supported later British imperial power. While historians such as Jon Wilson picked up on Bayly’s emphasis on the effects of Indian information structures on the British metropole, others, such as Seema Alavi, have gone in (p.287) another direction, demonstrating the transregional reaches of early modern information networks.6

Alavi and colleagues have thereby become increasingly interested in the transnational networks which existed before modern empires and global capitalism.7 These were networks which interacted through the shared conceptual vocabulary of Islamic religion and science, and the Persian language, linking a huge streak of the early modern world from Eastern Europe across to Bengal. Recent major works by Ronit Ricci and Nile Green have linked this network further across its eastern periphery to early modern Southeast Asia.8 Ricci’s work follows the earlier and similarly linguistically and intellectually based transcultural history of Sheldon Pollock which projected ‘cosmopolitan’ information orders back to an even earlier time of Sanskrit transculturalism.9 Cosmopolitanism then, rather than marking an early and soon tragically surpassed stage in British and French imperialism, as for some modernists, has for scholars of earlier history, particularly those concerned with Asia, become a conceptual category that might liberate us from the intellectual hegemony of a geographically and temporally monolithic modernity.

South Asian history leads the conceptual way in this field as in so many others. East Asian history, however, although traditionally more bound by national historical paradigms, has recently begun to offer up similar examples of early modern networks which both transcended cultural spheres in their own early modern times, and laid the ground for East Asian societies’ engagement with and later reworking of the modern global order. The main model in East Asia, although not yet as theorised as that of South Asia, has been the intellectual networks facilitated by the Classical Chinese language and Confucian intellectual culture referred to by Joshua Fogel as the ‘Sinosphere’.10 In this chapter I will argue that just as Islam provided an important scheme of scientific and ethical conceptual orthodoxy for the establishment of an early modern (and pre-Western dominance) cosmopolis in Southwest Asia, so too Confucianism played a similar role in the Far East, with Chinese acting as a transnational lingua franca much like Persian, Arabic, and other languages across the Near East and South Asia.11

(p.288) This chapter analyses specific developments in the history of knowledge in early modern Japan to trace the contours of the Sinosphere as an information order. The development of knowledge in early modern Japan has been theorised by historians of Japan through network theory, ideas of aesthetic community, and most recently as a ‘library of public knowledge’. These approaches have added much to our understanding of the intellectual and knowledge realms of what was one of the most literate and informed polities of the early modern world. They have tended to focus, however, on fields of action limited to Japanese society itself, concentrating on sociology and text transmission within Japan.12

This chapter instead looks to take these advances made in Japanese history writing over the past decades and link them in with broader East Asian transregional paradigms of knowledge and information. I thereby argue for the existence of an intellectually Confucian-centred, Classical Chinese language delivered, trans-Asian Sinosphere archive of knowledge in the early modern period. My argument is that this broad, transferable, and often commercially delivered archive was what supported the creation of information orders under the auspices of states in early modern East Asia. The existence of these early modern information orders may well have been one aspect which enabled them to engage the later processes of Western-centric modern globalisation from a comparatively stronger base.

This chapter’s engagement with archivality thus focuses on its manifestation in these information orders—the Sinosphere systems through which information was ordered in private and particularly state institutions. Many of the institutions discussed below, and especially the state institutions discussed in the second half of this chapter, also had archives in the sense of physical repositories. But most of those repositories were destroyed and their contents scattered through the process of modernisation.13 An important shared history of those archives that we can still relatively easily recover, however, is the social and intellectual story of the information systematisation and control which created them—what Bayly, in his work on India, calls an ‘information order’.14 Although not a repository, it is a form of archive or archivality. The East Asian information order discussed in this chapter possesses a good degree of archivality in that it was systematised in (p.289) standard models of Confucian intellectual practice and Classical Chinese literary tradition shared across the broad transnational space which was the early modern Sinosphere.

This chapter has two sections. The first looks back to the beginnings of the Japanese Tokugawa state in the 17th century to discuss the political and social developments which enabled the birth of a wide-ranging private sphere of knowledge. While building on the work of previous scholarship limited to Japanese history, I look to demonstrate how this early development of a robust private intellectual sphere in Tokugawa Japan (1603–1868) was crucially facilitated by the nature of trans-Asian literary culture, particularly in its guise as Confucianism, which I argue provided the cultural base of this field. Although using an array of primary sources, this section also relies on reformulations of previous arguments from Japanese history writing.

In the second section of the chapter, based solidly in new research on primary source materials, I discuss the Tokugawa state’s late 18th-century establishment of an information order through state institutionalisation of elements of the networks and transnational practices which had emerged in private commercial spheres in Japan in the previous century. Part of that discussion touches upon the links between these state institutions and the processing of Western knowledge, including in the period after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate when the new Meiji Japanese state adopted a policy of active Westernisation.

The chapter thereby demonstrates state involvement in knowledge and information development, but also shows the private sphere, informal roots of the knowledge and education movements which set the basis for later state action. I argue for the importance of transnational information elements, the transnational Sinosphere archive of Confucian knowledge, in both.

The Japanese Private Sphere of Leisure Learning and the Sinosphere Archive of Knowledge

The rise of the Sinosphere archive of knowledge as a central element in early modern Japanese urban life was remarkable in that it initially occurred outside the institutions and structures of the state. This was a major difference between early modern Japan, and contemporaneous China and Korea. In contemporaneous Ming and Qing China and Joseon Korea knowledge and information networks were more often tied, directly and indirectly, to the state. This was intimately related to the existence of state examination systems as a track to attaining government employment and broader social status. In these official examination societies intellectual activity, in texts, in the underlying sociology of the place of literate culture in society, and notably in the Confucian academies, therefore tended to revolve around the state. Academies, whether public or private, trained students to pass the examinations the state set. The state therefore had a powerful means of influencing the dominant Confucian academic agenda. The fact that the (p.290) most prestigious academies in China and Korea were directly run by the state and presided over the examinations further institutionally integrated the worlds of academy, practice, and state. This influenced the overall structure of the orders of information and knowledge.15

In Tokugawa Japan, however, most intellectual activity, notably including Confucian practice, teaching, study, and writing occurred in small private schools and reading groups. The vast majority of professional scholars, including Confucian scholars, made their livelihood principally from monies extracted in student fees. The students did not come to these schools to pass state examinations, because for most of the Tokugawa period there were no state examinations. Even when the state did run a few examinations in the early 1800s, only the highest hereditary status samurai (hatamoto and goke’nin) in the Tokugawa houses could participate.16 The early modern Japanese Tokugawa state was ultimately a hereditary feudal regime. There was no sustained link between Confucian study and government appointment.

Yet despite the study and practice of Confucianism in Japan generally having no direct effects on career prospects, earning potential or government status, tens of thousands of Japanese of all status studied in Confucian schools at any given moment during most of the mid- and late Tokugawa periods, supporting at any given time many hundreds of professional Confucian scholars who ran these schools.17 The Confucian private schools were enthusiastically populated—primarily by lower class samurai who had no hereditary claims to significant office, but also by townspeople, and even by peasants and Buddhist priests. This mass Confucian activity, based in the private sphere, reached a peak in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and continued to be massively popular right through the Meiji Restoration of 1868 until finally displaced by the new Western-modelled modern school system in the 1880s.

The private sphere basis of this activity has led most scholars who have written on early modern Japan’s information order to downplay the role of the state, Confucianism, and external East Asian factors in the rise of early modern Japanese culture, society, and education. This means that links between state, private society, and intellectual society beyond the Japanese borders have tended to be underplayed. Mary Elizabeth Berry instead emphasised the commercial nature (p.291) of information flow, using this to argue that what she confusingly calls a ‘public information library’ was completely private, in the sense that it was entirely independent of the state.18 Although this holds for the early Tokugawa period, the situation in the later Tokugawa period is different, with important state interventions, as the second half of this chapter will argue. Moreover, although Berry is therefore right that the origins of the early modern information order were facilitated by a strong commercial sphere in Japan, she overlooks that this sphere was linked to China. Notably, until the turn of the 17th into the 18th century most books read in this ‘public library’ were actually printed in China.19 Even after the local printing industry managed to produce more books than were imported, a significant percentage of texts published in Japan were, in terms of content, still replications of Ming novellas and other popular Chinese forms. The forms of illustrated books, both fiction and non-fiction, which dominated commercial publication in Japan, were themselves a replication of Ming genres still wildly popular in Qing China. Underlying all this then was the commercial culture of China, particularly of the coastal cities such as Suzhou which had most trade interaction with Japan and were also the centres of the Chinese publishing industry. That is one reason why general culture was so influenced by Sinosphere paradigms, Confucianism, and literary forms indivisible from the Classical Chinese language.

The massive popularity of Chinese literature and increased literacy in it dominated the fields of not just Chinese, but also Japanese language literary studies and many other cultural fields in the leisure learning environment. This literary influence extended to the visual arts. The key role of Confucian schools in the overall function of the learning environment, and particularly the fields that used literary tools, explains the rapidly increasing permeation of Confucian ideas, values, and references into all aspects of cultural life in Japan through the late 17th century. The increasingly close interaction between cultural production and Confucian learning through the course of the early modern period led to the entire apparatus of early modern Japanese learning networks being based in the regional lingua franca of Classical Chinese and the regional conceptual vocabulary and imagination of Confucian thought—inherently transcultural and transnational forms.20

(p.292) The Sociological Background to the Rise of Knowledge and Information Networks

The rise in the popularity of both the spheres of leisure learning, Classical Chinese literacy and Confucian knowledge, in general society during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries occurred in the context of a widespread expansion in private, informal learning conducted through private schools and study groups which occurred across all the castle towns and cities of the Japanese archipelago during this period. This massive expansion of leisure learning was enabled by widespread changes in the nature of the Japanese economy, infrastructure, society, and politics which occurred during the 17th century.

The major driver of these changes was increased disposable wealth among Japanese, which was to a significant extent linked to the nature of early Tokugawa rule. Firstly, Tokugawa rule brought peace. Peace alone created a significantly better environment for agricultural cultivation (the main source of production in the still overwhelmingly agricultural economy) and trade. Agricultural production was further assisted by the comparative interventionism of the Tokugawas and many of the daimyo lords under them in the first century of Tokugawa rule. Both the Tokugawa overlords and many local daimyo lords facilitated large-scale land reclamation projects in the 17th century, allowing more land to be cultivated. This in turn increased the population. Trade, by facilitating a more efficient exchange in goods, led to increases in disposable income, which in turn meant more time for leisure. But trade in itself also facilitated leisure learning directly by providing national byways and networks through which leisure activities, including learning, could be propagated and carried out on a national basis—through travel, book distribution, and so on.21

Particular aspects and policies of Tokugawa rule in the 17th century directly facilitated the networks and markets of leisure learning. One of the primary policies through which the Tokugawas sought to ensure the loyalty of domain lords was the alternate attendance system (sankinkōtai) introduced in 1635.22 This system required domainal lords from all over the country, with their large families and samurai and servant retinues, to reside in Edo in alternate years. This instigated hundreds of regular journeys per year (from each of the 200 or more domains) of groups in each instance of hundreds, often thousands of the wealthier and higher-status members of Japanese society. This brought mass, well-funded travel across the country, and then long-term residence of tens of thousands of those with the most leisure time and income, together in Edo. Edo thus grew to (p.293) become the greatest city in the world with a population of over one million in the late 17th century. The concentration of so many people and so much wealth and status, not only in Edo, but also along the highways and byways and in the intervening cities and highway towns of Japan, the constant movement of these people back and forth between and through different urban centres, created a newly networked and culturally vibrant society.23

In the early to mid-Tokugawa period the people most able to take advantage of the increase in leisure time, disposable income, and capacity for secure movement were samurai. There were multiple reasons for this. Firstly, there was location. Samurai were required by shogunal regulation to reside in castle towns, so they were always in a relatively urban environment, concentrated with other samurai as well as the richer merchants in towns which, even in the provinces, often had populations of over ten thousand. Moreover, samurai were often required to travel with their lords to the shogunal capital, putting them for periods of a year or more in Edo, the urban centre par excellence. Thus samurai were more urbanised and in general more mobile than the average Japanese.

Secondly, the governance system of the Tokugawas meant that most of the low-class samurai (the overwhelming majority) had leisure time. The structures of Tokugawa administration were in essence military. The senior samurai lords and their most senior families (the hatamoto and goke’nin) played the major management roles, and the core role of the lower samurai was envisaged as ground troops. But there was no war. Because management positions were allocated to hatamoto and goke’nin family members in a primarily hereditary process, there was usually no route for ‘ordinary’ low-class samurai to rise to a meaningful administrative function. Their duties were things like ‘guard duty’. With the rise in population (also among the samurai), and overwhelming peace and good order, there were not many hours per week guarding required. So they had plenty of spare time. This led samurai to sometimes lead, and often take part in, a whole range of leisure learning activities in fields as diverse as the military arts, agricultural technology, poetry, medicine, and Confucianism. Many of them enjoyed a kind of permanent otium.

Although this social change was qualitatively different to what Hayami Akira, in relation to the contemporaneous Japanese peasantry, has referred to as the ‘industrious revolution’, the parallels are intriguing.24 Both cases involved the availability of extra time being ploughed into an increased application of knowledge—in (p.294) the case of Hayami’s generic peasant for increased production, in the case of the generic samurai for what a neo-liberal economist might call ‘no goal in particular’, a European humanities academic might call ‘Bildung’, and what in Confucian terms should be called ‘self-cultivation’.

The practice of leisure learning in early modern Japan was particularly interesting in the way it encouraged a diversification of interest, skills, and networks, and sometimes a bifurcation of the nature of status and skill based on a particular field. As Ikegami has explained, leisure learning ‘supplied individual citizens with occasions for exchanging their feudal identities … for identities otherwise defined’.25 Network research has demonstrated that it was very common for urban dwellers with the means to simultaneously take part in a number of different study circles or schools practising different arts. Diaries from urban dwellers in Tokugawa Japan give us examples of people who regularly attended circles for painting, Confucianism, poetry, and military arts, and who would have relatives and friends they mixed with in these circles who might then be doing Dutch Studies, or National Learning. So there was a huge human network of overlap between the different interests.26

Sinosphere Centrality in ‘Western Studies’ and Japanese Nativism

Leisure learning focusing on Western technique and science is ironically one of the best examples of the deep influence of Confucianism and Sinosphere culture. The study of Western science in Tokugawa Japan was usually called ‘Dutch Learning’ rangaku. This was because after the settlement of Tokugawa foreign and trade policy in the 1630s and 1640s, the Dutch were left as the only European trading partners of Japan. Long-term contact between Dutch in Nagasaki and the official Dutch interpreters employed by the shogunate at Nagasaki facilitated a flow of Western information and knowledge delivered through the Dutch language. ‘Dutch Learning’ was much more closely integrated with practices of Confucianism than most scholars have acknowledged.27 Dutch medical knowledge (p.295) and medical technique was transmitted in Japanese society predominantly through the networks of traditional Chinese medical practitioners. The greatest overlap in all the knowledge professions in Tokugawa Japan was between doctors and Confucian scholars. Itō Jinsai and Ogyū Sorai, for instance, generally regarded as the two most influential Confucian scholars in Japanese history, both came from medical families, as did the famous Confucian innovator and scientist Kaibara Ekken, who actually studied Dutch learning in Nagasaki. What was later called Dutch Learning was initially begun among doctors of Chinese medicine, many of whom also worked as Confucian teachers. The entire Chinese medical theory they used, moreover, was heavily influenced by and integrated with Confucian theory.28

As the second part of this chapter develops further, Confucian state advisors, particularly after the 1790s, were also instrumental in having Dutch Learning—medical knowledge and technique, language study, geography, and study of Western society in general—integrated into the emerging knowledge institutions of the Tokugawa state. Scholars like Timon Screech have emphasised negative views of Dutch Studies by some Confucians and Tokugawa officials, but the involvement of major Confucians and state officials in promoting Dutch Studies through the late 18th and early 19th centuries problematises this historical outlook.29 Network analysis also shows that participants in the most influential Dutch Learning and Neo-Confucian circles overlapped significantly. Furthermore, as will be discussed further below, the Japanese studies of Western medicine and geography facilitated through ‘Dutch Studies’ were almost always carried out with the help of Chinese-produced dictionaries, textbooks, and encyclopaedias written in a heavily Confucian-inflected Classical Chinese. Confucianism underlay the reception of Western knowledge in Tokugawa Japan—conceptually, linguistically, and sociologically.

Similarly, Japanese Nativism, or ‘National Learning’ kokugaku, one of the most politically influential forms of ‘learning’ in the late Tokugawa period, is often depicted, following the sectarian rhetoric of its later practitioners, as standing starkly at odds with all things Chinese, notably Confucianism. Nativism, particularly under its most famous practitioner Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801), framed its own discourse as a radical ‘Japanese indigenous’ attack upon the foreign (p.296) ‘Chinese Confucian’ tradition.30 Yet, as Peter Flueckiger has recently noted, the basic logic of Japanese Nativism worked along Confucian parameters.31 The theoretical basis of later National Learning from at least the 18th century onwards, as already pointed out by Maruyama Masao in the 1940s, was deeply based on the concepts and world views of the greatest Tokugawa Confucian scholar of all, Ogyū Sorai (1666–1728).32 Nativism, like Western Learning, while profiling itself against Confucianism, actually worked within the conceptual, linguistic, and organisational order of Confucian pedagogy and theory.33 Thus even the most popular and influential religious, intellectual, and political tradition of all in the Tokugawa period other than Confucianism, Japanese Nativism, was heavily reliant upon Confucianism theoretically, often integrated with it in practice, and often also overlapping in membership.

In this way, learning networks in the public sphere, even those centred on Japanese Nativism or Western Learning, were deeply rooted in trans-Asian, Chinese-language delivered, and conceptually Confucian pedagogical practices and book sources. They drew on a trans-Asian archive of knowledge. This porous realm of knowledge was transformed through the 18th and 19th centuries into a state-led information order. The next half of the chapter looks at the nature of that transformation, and its implications for Japanese engagement with various sources and modes of information and archivality from beyond the archipelago. It demonstrates how China-based Sinosphere systems of information management and exchange became the basis of the archivality of state institutions in later early modern Japan.

State Institutionalisation: The Tokugawa Information Order

Over the course of the 18th century the Tokugawa shogunate began to construct an array of information and knowledge institutions in the capital Edo, systematically integrating them with others throughout the country, and increasingly employing these institutions in state administration and training, crucially in the systematic analysis and employment of foreign intelligence, including technology intelligence. This information was stored in archive repositories, but much more importantly was ordered and processed, both intellectually and administratively, through a kind of archivality which transcended Japanese culture and was rooted in a much broader regional information order.

(p.297) As a military regime, the Tokugawa state had since its inception in the early 1600s been particularly sensitive to information. During the 17th century, social structures had been set up at village level with the aim of providing local political intelligence to the rulers. The shogunate similarly sought to keep tabs on the domainal lordly governments which constituted their military federation by stationing inspectors and representatives daikan in each of the around 200 regional domains. The main task of these officers was domestic intelligence gathering with primarily political objectives. Although foreign intelligence gathering was a priority early on in the Tokugawa state—and indeed the shogunate’s facilitation of a Dutch trading post in Nagasaki has been explained in terms of the intelligence needs of the state—there was no ordered system for the collection, archiving, or analysis of foreign information and knowledge until the late 18th century.34

A good place to see the problems of the Tokugawa international intelligence system before the 1780s is the point of first foreign contact in the port city of Nagasaki, through which most Chinese and Western texts and technologies were imported. The management of information in the port areas, although ostensibly heavily regulated by the shogunal state since the 17th century, had for most of the intervening period been left predominantly in the hands of the shogunal offices of the Chinese interpreters (tōtsūji) and Dutch interpreters (orandatsūji) in Nagasaki. These offices were officially part of the shogunate administrative structure, controlled under the shogunal office of Nagasaki City Magistrate (Nagasaki bugyō). Despite being called ‘interpreters’, their main role was as a form of government customs officer. They inspected and assessed imported and exported goods as part of the shogunate-controlled monopoly trade system, including through allocating tradable goods, working out tariffs, and inspecting goods for illegal content (for instance, in the case of imports, Christian imagery, in the case of exports, domestic maps, and other possible intelligence content). In their day-to-day handling of non-state tax and trade-related information, however, everything outside their official remit, they acted predominantly as independent agents working for the benefit of their own clan rather than the state.

The head positions in the interpreters’ offices were inherited, and the offices were administered through clan-family structures. The knowledge attained in the work of these offices but not sought by the state was employed by these clans primarily for their own commercial interests—for instance, through the sale of drugs and drug recipes. Their private schools, charging tuition, were a further important part of many clans’ businesses, using knowledge gained through their privileged public position primarily for private gain.35 The interpreters’ position (p.298) in the Tokugawa state system gave them access to information and status, which enabled them to sell knowledge so long as that knowledge was exclusive enough to be sellable. It was in their interests to limit information flow rather than facilitate it, even in relation to other state organs.

Knowledge of Chinese language and trade conditions, vital for shogunate-controlled trade with China, was similarly initially left in the hands of certain families of ‘Chinese interpreters’ tōtsūji who similarly served the Tokugawa shogunate as interpreters, low-level diplomats, and customs officers. Other shogunate institutions did not have regular, sustained, or systematic access to the significant knowledge and information raised by the Chinese and Dutch Interpreter Offices in Nagasaki. In this early Tokugawa system, the state did not actively manage the knowledge professionals who were nominally in its service. They were not structurally integrated into any larger state-sponsored knowledge networks, nor were there any other administrative structures which could exploit the knowledge they attained. The large Confucian and medical academies in Edo associated with the state were also not brought under state control until the 1780s. While enjoying state patronage, they operated primarily for private gain. This situation was openly criticised by independent Confucian scholars in popular published work already in the early 18th century, for instance in Ogyū Sorai’s political tract ‘Discourse on Government’ Seidan.36

Systematic institutionalisation of knowledge within reformed structures of the state, partly in reaction to this kind of critique, occurred at end of the 18th century. This process began in earnest under the leadership of the shogunal regent Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759–1829) in the 1790s. Beginning with the Confucian Academy, and moving on to medical and other academies, the Kansei Reforms sought to systematically standardise, regulate, and expand state knowledge institutions. The shogunate under Matsudaira Sadanobu, and in the decades after he stepped down as shogunal regent, established direct state control over family schools which had traditional associations with the shogunate. State take-over involved not only expansion, but also replacing the heads of the academies, displacing the hereditary leaders to introduce new practices. These reforms also ordered the student populations of the academies, creating more exclusive institutions whose education was directed towards serving the state’s interests in creating a cadre of trained state doctors and administrators for public service. In short, the academies were directed towards public rather than private aims.37

(p.299) Professionalisation and Bureaucratisation of State Knowledge Institutions

In 1788, soon after being appointed regent, Matsudaira Sadanobu had a fifty-three-year-old private school teacher called Shibano Ritsuzan installed as Confucian advisor to the shogunate. Shibano’s only previous government experience was a brief stint as a Confucian advisor to the domain lord of Tokushima in the 1760s. Matsudaira Sadanobu knew him through his scholarly reputation in the private sphere, notably from his influential Memorial (Ritsuzan Jōsho), an unsolicited policy advice document which appears to have been reasonably widely distributed in manuscript form.38 Matsudaira was appointing someone who was very much an Edo outsider, but deeply connected with the dense networks of private learning and political debate through the rest of the country, particularly the networks in Western Japan centred around the Kansai area. In 1790 Matsudaira Sadanobu forced the head of the shogunate-aligned Hayashi Confucian Academy to ‘employ’ Shibano Ritsuzan, and then, in an explicit written order, instructed him to hand over control of the academy to him.39 This brought the largest Confucian Academy in Edo under shogunate administrative control. It was officially renamed the Shōheizaka Gakumonjo (literally: [State] Office for Learning on the Shōhei slopes), and for the first time in a millennium a governing Japanese state had a Confucian Academy integrated into its administrative apparatus (Figure 12.1).

Matsudaira Sadanobu saw this newly reformed shogunal Confucian Academy as his flagship in a national plan for research and education intended to shake up Japan and push learning to the centre of government administration—both in the shogunate and in the regional domains. Matsudaira articulated the hope that the form of curriculum standardisation carried out at the Shogunal Confucian Academy would also be picked up in the many domainal government academies.40 In addition to trying to influence domainal academies indirectly, Matsudaira’s reforms also directly targeted the non-Confucian shogunal academies with reform agendas almost identical to those he carried out in the Confucian Academy. (p.300)

The Transnational Archive of the Sinosphere: The Early Modern East Asian Information Order

12.1 Yushima Hall, site of the Tokugawa State Confucian Academy.

© Kiri Paramore.

(p.301) One example is the Medical Academy. In 1791, in parallel with what was happening to the Confucian Academy, the Seijukan Medical Academy of the Taki clan was brought under the direct administrative control of the shogunate and renamed the Igakukan (literally: the Hall of Medical Studies). The teachers of this medical academy became part of the bureaucratic structure of the shogunate, with a high-level shogunate official, a Metsuke (Inspector—equivalent roughly to a departmental under-secretary) in charge.41 Just as in the case of the Shogunal Confucian Academy, the establishment of this Shogunal Medical Academy as a state institute saw an influx of newly appointed teachers from outside the Edo establishment, primarily originally non-samurai so-called ‘town doctors’ from western Japan. As with the likes of Shibano Ritsuzan in the case of the Confucian Academy, these medical imports from the Kansai were also often given Tokugawa retainer status and thus elevated not only into the capital and state service, but also into the samurai caste and the retainership of the ruling Tokugawa family.42 Just as in the case of the Confucian Academy, the nationalisation of the Medical Academy also brought with it the exclusion of private students from day classes or special dormitories, with the academy instead concentrating on the education of those who would directly serve the shogunate, and thereby the public. Examinations were also introduced following a system similar to that used at the Confucian Academy.43

Another shogunal academy favoured and reformed under Matsudaira Sadanobu was the Astronomical Institute (Tenmonkata). Unlike the medical and Confucian academies, the Astronomical Institute had been a unit under direct shogunal control since the 17th century. However, it had been in repeated conflicts with the Onmyō (Yin and Yang) office of the imperial aristocracy in Kyoto over which institution should compile official state calendars. Creation of calendars was considered a core duty of the state in Tokugawa Japan. Astronomical knowledge allowed calendar makers to make more accurate predictions of celestial events, and thus more effective calendars. Matsudaira Sadanobu intervened decisively in favour of the Shogunal Astronomical Institute in this long-running conflict, and moreover ordered the use of the newest Western techniques in the creations of the Kansei calendars. To this end in 1795 he had Takahashi Yoshitoki (1764–1804) appointed to take over running the Astronomical Institute. Takahashi Yoshitoki was one of the first scholars in Japan to study, apply, and publish upon Johannes Kepler’s theories. Matsudaira also had the Astronomical Institute carry out more and wider research roles. This began a trend which eventually led to Takahashi (p.302) Yoshitoki’s son, Takahashi Kageyasu (1785–1829), founding the Bansho wage goyō (barbarian [Western] documents translation service) in 1811, an institute specialising in the translation of Western knowledge.

Astronomical Institute scholars like Takahashi Yoshitoki and Takahashi Kageyasu were appointed into state offices only in part to carry out their primary job of making more accurate predictions of celestial events. Their ability to read Western texts was also regarded in and of itself as an important and useful form of knowledge—not just for science, but also from a military intelligence perspective. Through the turn of the 18th into the 19th century the shogunate paid increasing attention to geopolitical developments relating to Western expansion and imperialism. Astronomy Institute scholars were often the first port of call for translations and analysis of documents, maps, and other objects from the West—which came not only directly through the Dutch, but also quite often through China. In order to directly service this requirement, Takahashi Kageyasu in 1811 presided over the creation of the Bansho wage goyō. The appointment of the Takahashis in the Astronomical Institute, the way they were utilised in that institution, and the way they in turn developed it, is one demonstration of the importance of Western knowledge in the Confucian-inspired shogunal knowledge reforms of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.44

The importance of the ongoing study of Western knowledge and technique in shogunal institutions was exemplified in the Shogunal Medical Academy, and attested to by their production of Dutch medical and Dutch language texts, like medical dictionaries.45 Examination of the nature of these dictionaries, in particular their manuscript form and phonographic script, suggest that these dictionaries were prepared by Japanese with knowledge of spoken Dutch—possibly Nagakasi interpreters.46 The dictionaries, compiled and kept in the Shogunal Medical Academy, the Igakukan, shows the Igakukan had an interest in a book emphasising ability to comprehend spoken Dutch pronunciation of pharmaceutical terms (including common Dutch pronunciation of Latin). Although there are reports of spoken Dutch being used in some Western learning and medical schools in Japan, the only place where Dutch was being spoken at this time by someone who did not also understand Japanese medical terminology was Nagasaki—the only port open to Western shipping, and of course that shipping was Dutch. The nature of the dictionary thus indicates it likely to have been produced by Japanese with good knowledge of Chinese medicine and Dutch medicine, based in Nagasaki, and with regular access to spoken Dutch. The most obvious candidates are thus the shogunate’s Nagasaki-based ‘Dutch interpreters’, the Oranda tsūji.

(p.303) And intriguingly, here lies the connection with the Confucian institutions of the state and the broader Sinosphere. ‘Dutch interpreters’ were indeed regularly present in Edo from the early 19th century—under shogunal orders. Surprisingly, they were not assigned in Edo to serve in either the Medical Academy, nor the Astronomical Institute, nor the office of barbarian translation which had arisen out of the Astronomical Institute. Rather, they lodged in and offered classes at the Shogunal Confucian Academy, the Shōheizaka Gakumonjo.47 This casts light on the increasingly pivotal role that the Confucian Academy came to have in the analysis of foreign intelligence in the years after the nationalisation of the academy.

Late 18th- and Early 19th-Century Global Political Analysis and the Sinosphere

Makabe Jin has demonstrated the role of the Shogunal Confucian Academy in foreign affairs and research by tracing the service of three generations of one family, the Kogas, through the 18th- and 19th-century Confucian Academy: Koga Seiri (1750–1817), his son Tōan (1788–1847), and his son Kin’ichirō (1816–84).48 All three became major figures in Japan’s engagement with the West. The interest began relatively early with Koga Seiri in the 1770s, when he wrote one of the first influential treatises warning of possible encroachment on Japan’s autonomy by foreign, Western (particularly Russian) imperial ambitions, and advising the shogunate what action they should take to prevent it. Kyokuron jiji fūji (A Secret Memorial on the Urgency of Current Affairs) was one of the first political treatises to systematically address the Western threat issue.49 It fits in with a range of other texts on this issue produced around this time such as Miura Baien’s Hekijahitsudoku Samidareshō (1784), Hayashi Shihei’s Sangoku tsūran zusetu (1786), and Kaikoku heidan (1787), and the Mito scholar Fujita Yūkoku’s Seimeiron (1791).50 Koga Seiri’s thesis, like Hayashi Shihei’s works, was advice on how to hold back foreign incursions. Both works focused on Russia, which was a reaction not only to occasional Russian landings north of Hokkaido, but also to the central position of the Russian empire as representative of a Western military threat in Qing-originated Chinese texts. The manner through which Koga advised (p.304) the shogunate to organise defence, however, is striking in its reformist nature. Koga recommended a diplomatically and militarily expansive policy including engagement with Western technology, arguing that the shogunate should ‘employ the barbarians to assault the barbarians’ (Takimoto 1914: 185). This was his recommended approach to the problem of potential Western threat as early as the end of the 18th century. His third son and later head of the Shōheizaka Academy, Koga Tōan (1788–1847), continued this work, becoming a major writer on coastal defence alongside his Confucian duties.51

In his 1778 treatise on the Western threat, Koga argued that the most urgent reform was to ‘open the channels of communication’.52 This was also one of the most important elements of his advice for general reform of the shogunate bureaucracy contained in his most famous political work Jūjikai.53 In both works, he is referring primarily to communication between different levels of government and society in Japan. In Jūjikai it is clear that what he calls for is a dynamic opening in the capacity of the upper levels to hear the advice of those lower in the hierarchy. In Kyokuron jiji fūji Koga uses this Confucian idea to go further than he does in Jūjikai by suggesting the opening of the channels of communication not only as a tool of inter-agency governance, but also to imply that the shogunate should seek intelligence and information from outside Japan and outside Asia. This is clear in his recommendation for the development of cannon technology and naval forces.54 Fascinatingly, the textual basis upon which he calls for this ‘opening the channels of communication’ (Ch. kai yanlu Jp. kai genro (genro wo hiraki)) in Kyokuron jiji fūji is none other than a citation from Cheng Yi, the Song philosopher who, together with his brother Cheng Hao and Zhu Xi, is regarded as one of three founders of Neo-Confucianism.55 This early call for Westernisation was thus not only quintessentially Confucian, it was quintessentially Song Chinese Neo-Confucian.

This Confucian base to Koga Seiri’s ideas on Westernisation is related to the image of China current in the Japan of his time. The model at this time for his expansive vision of empire appears to have been not the West, but rather Qing China. Recent publications on the history of the Manchu Empire have pointed out how successful it was until quite late in the era in its programme of territorial expansion—or what some have labelled ‘imperialism’.56 In opening his book (p.305) of advice on how to deal with the Western threat in the north by ‘employing the barbarians to assault the barbarians’, Seiri indeed refers to this approach as ‘the Chinese model’.57 Koga borrows the phrase ‘employing the barbarians to assault the barbarians’ from the Book of the Han, a period in Chinese history often compared to the Qing because of the extent of expansionist activity.58 Indeed, contemporaneously, the Manchu Qing empire was ‘defending’ China exactly through this kind of dynamic territorial expansion bringing it into initially victorious military conflict with Russia—the very same foreign threat that Koga was worried about.59

The influence of not only classical, Han, Song, and Ming, but also of reasonably contemporary Qing political thinking and writing on Koga Seiri is also an interesting point when considering the global manner in which he thought about the political issues facing the shogunate. While Koga’s openness to Western technologies and recommended policy of competing externally with the Western powers militarily is strikingly different to the image that is usually presented of orthodox Neo-Confucians, it is also interesting to note that many influences on this political advice appear to come from a still aggressive and expansive (and Neo-Confucian) Qing China.60 In contrast to the writing of other early 19th-century Japanese Confucians emphasised in secondary literature (for instance, the Mito School), Seiri and his colleagues in the state academy did not at all perceive China as weak, but rather associated Qing China and its Neo-Confucian tradition with global power.61

Critically, the approach to knowledge institutionalised at this time, and represented in texts produced and distributed privately—like Shibano Ritsuzan’s Memorial—but also texts officially associated with the state academy—like the Shōheishi—was two-pronged.62 On the one hand, there was the introduction of a standardised, shared curriculum of ethical education carried out through evidential argument. This was based on a standardised approach to Neo-Confucian learning influenced by Song, Ming, and Qing commentators, and providing the ‘orthodoxy’ often mentioned in relation to the Kansei reforms—the standardisation of knowledge necessary for communication across different sections of (p.306) society and the cooperative implementation as technique. As Shibano made abundantly clear, however, this shared corpus of a standardised body of base ethical knowledge was designed to create a shared ethic, an underlying sense of solidarity among the bureaucratic strata, over which would be lain the development of a range of their own specialist areas of knowledge. This emphasis on developing specialist knowledge among the members of the bureaucratic strata, in fields as diverse as traditional fighting techniques and the reading of Dutch texts, was the other important strand of the reformers’ educational doctrine. Specialist knowledge, and thereby specialisation, was something emphasised by Ritsuzan in his initial memorial to the shogunate, taken up in the organisation of the academy, strengthened by its evidential approach to knowledge, and best exemplified by the championing of non-Confucian knowledge by Seiri’s Koga family descendants in the shogunal Confucian and Western learning academies.

The natural development of this outlook was clearly visible in the role Shogunate Confucian Academy scholars after this generation continued to play in informing the international outlook of the shogunate. Koga Tōan, Seiri’s son, published famous texts on naval defence as well as advising the shogunate.63 His son, Koga Kin’ichirō (1816–84), was educated in Dutch as well as Confucianism, and would go on to serve in the Confucian Academy in a similar capacity as his father, partly as an expert on external affairs, before in 1856 being appointed the first Head of the Barbarian Documents Research Center (bansho shirabesho), which shortly thereafter became the Shogunal Institute of Western Learning.

Western imperialism and its technologies were thereby analysed in Japan through the Sinosphere information order afforded by Classical Chinese literacy and Confucian political thought. Chinese was the language of reference and translation for Western works in Japan right up into the 1850s.

Confucian Knowledge Institutions and Meiji Modernisation

Research on modern Japanese history often highlights the role of the Shogunal Institute of Western Learning.64 This shogunal institute and school was the main point of advice for the government on foreign affairs, provided interpreters and translators for all official tasks, and established a number of departments for the study of different aspects of practical learning from the West. The first major treaties between Western powers and the Japanese government were negotiated with advisors and interpreters from this institute. Leading educators, scientists, bureaucrats, and politicians of Meiji Japan who trace lines back to the Barbarian (p.307) Documents Research Center include the early Meiji finance and external affairs minister Terashima Muneyori (1832–93), the naval reformer Akamatsu Yoshinori (1841–1920), the chemist Kawamoto Kōmin (1810–71), the statistician, bureaucrat, and legal scholar Sugi Kōji (1828–1917), the scholar-bureaucrats Nishi Amane (1829–97) and Tsuda Mamichi (1829–1903), the later President of the University of Tokyo and Privy Councillor Katō Hiroyuki (1836–1916), bureaucrat, politician, and President of the House of Councillors Tsuji Shinji (1842–1915) as well as many others.

Yet modern historians often overlook its Confucian roots. The Barbarian Documents Research Center was a direct outshoot of the Shogunal Confucian Academy, its director and early staff being appointed out of it. Most of the major figures associated with the Barbarian Documents Research Center in the Meiji period, including later appointments, were educated first in Confucian academies. Indeed, recent studies into many of these figures’ activities in the modern period have emphasised the role of Confucian thought in their interpretations of modern techniques and Western political systems.65 Most members of the influential Meiroku group of scholars in the 1870s, for instance, were former students of either the Shogunal Confucian Academy or the Barbarians Documents Research Center.66

Another effect of Tokugawa Confucianism in Meiji modernisation, however, was simply institutional. The expansion of state academies and the new approach to state involvement in knowledge led by the shogunate in the Kansei Reforms was replicated in the domains, as had been Matsudaira Sadanobu’s intention. The late 18th and early 19th century thus saw not only an important expansion in the number of domainal state academies, but also saw them increasingly conform to a unified approach of tuition set by the Shogunal Academy in Edo.67 This simple act of dissemination of state academies and standardisation of language and method of instruction was an important precedent. Later Meiji state schools would have students use English to study Western technique, displacing Chinese. But the basic method of having students learn a foreign language to process technique and information was similar. There was also an even more direct institutional link between the Confucian domainal academies and the modern system of education: the modern Normal Schools often occupied the buildings of the former Domainal Confucian academies, often appropriating parts of their staff. These Normal Schools, teacher training colleges, were the lynchpin of the modern Meiji (p.308) infrastructure of education and the base from which knowledge of English and capacity to use Western scientific method was spread in the Meiji period.68

The shogunal institutionalisation of knowledge which followed the Kansei Reforms meant that by the mid-19th century Japan possessed an informal, but standardised and state-supported infrastructure of knowledge institutions, academies, and schools which linked state and non-state centres of knowledge to each other across the country. This infrastructure centred around the shogunal Confucian and other academies, and fanned out in the provinces through the domainal schools and academies as well as many private schools. This infrastructure of knowledge was primarily Confucian and thereby intellectually transnational, not in the sense that Confucianism monopolised the content of learning, but rather because: 1) generalist learning, what we might call the liberal arts basis of learning, including the way it was politically coloured, was Confucian, 2) state academies sitting at the centre of the web of knowledge institutions identified themselves as Confucian, and 3) the primary language of learning (including the destination of translation for Western works) was a form of Classical Chinese which in the Japanese context of the time could not be disentangled from the Confucian tradition. In this sense, a broad Confucian knowledge network was in place, and this network provided the basis for the reception of Western ideas, politics, science, and technology.

This infrastructure of knowledge had moreover produced a cadre of thousands of educated Japanese who would be the human conduit through which the onslaught of Westernisation and modernisation after the 1850s would be mediated. These people did not all identify themselves as Confucian, but they all shared a Confucian education and thereby expressed themselves in a vocabulary reflecting that background. One could argue, and many good scholars have, that they mediated the reception of Western modernity through the lens of the eclectic Confucian knowledge framework in which they had grown up.69

Conclusion: Information and Archivality

Although I have focused on the creation of an information order in the early modern Japanese state, some readers may wonder what this has to do with archives. Indeed, I have only spoken of an almost metaphorical archive of the Sinosphere. But this archive was no simple metaphor. As noted above, Japanese (p.309) state and non-state attempts to understand and translate Western works of political and military science, technology, and sociology, relied upon access to a wealth of printed and manuscript reference materials which were either physically produced in China, or else reproduced in Japan based on information imported from China (either directly through Nagasaki, or indirectly through Korea or in the latter Tokugawa period more commonly known as the Ryukyu Kingdom), and read in Chinese. There was an immense store of knowledge available to the Japanese. It was information which, although not stored in a physical archive, did possess a degree of archivality in that it was systematised in standard models of Confucian intellectual practice and Classical Chinese literary tradition shared across the broad transnational space which was the early modern Sinosphere.

Where then is the ‘real’ archive containing these materials and the physical remains of their utilisation in early modern Japan? These materials are plentiful, and they are indeed stored in repositories of both private and public ownership sometimes called libraries and often archives. Crucially, however, they are not stored in the archives or archival forms into which they were held by the Tokugawa state institutions. Primary sources referred to and consulted in this chapter, many of which were once held in shogunal schools and academies, can be found today in the National Diet Library, in the National Archives of Japan, in the stacks of the General Library of the University of Tokyo, and in the special collections of Waseda University. This is only the beginning of a much longer list of places where elements of what once were the archives of different Tokugawa state institutions are now stored.

Yet none of these were the original depositories of these archives, none of the collections reflect the organisation or scope of the ‘original archives’ of the early modern state institutions. The reason is simple: these Tokugawa institutions were all destroyed in the Meiji Restoration which brought to an end Japan’s early modern state, the Tokugawa Shogunate. The collections which once constituted their archives were to begin with neglected, later elements were bought or sold off, taken by different institutions, dispersed.70 There is an example of one element of a Tokugawa state archive which was kept together and stored in the University of Tokyo library. But this was then destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which led to the incineration of the University of Tokyo and many other major libraries. Blanket fire-bombing of large swathes of central Tokyo in 1945 similarly decimated other collections. The reason for the endurance of Tokugawa Japanese early modern era documents was the Tokugawa practice of duplication of official correspondence, coupled with the sheer volume of records involved. Much of the correspondence was held by collateral houses of the Tokugawa family which became private families after 1945, or held in other individual collections of people who held various shogunal offices or interacted with them through the (p.310) course of the early modern period, and became simple private citizens after the Meiji Restoration.

This story of archivality mirrors the story of early modern intellectual history more broadly, including that narrated in this chapter. Archives exist today, and they contain this material, but they are not the archives in which this material was originally stored, retrieved, and used. Continuity is nowhere, disruption is almost complete. We can still use these sources to peer through and back to an earlier time, the content is still available to the historian, but not the original form of its archival arrangement. Similarly, if we think about what early modernity outside Europe, but possibly also inside it, sometimes means, it is also an intellectual space in which we see many elements of the world we now live in, but presented anew in completely altered and differently formulated presentations of archivality. The early modern period often contains many familiar intellectual, information, and knowledge strands, but they are not mediated by modern forms like the modern university, modern intellectual ideas of objectivity and empiricism, or the modern nation-state with its particular complexes of overarching knowledge and political order. The early modern, particularly clearly in a non-Western environment, looks like the information-centric, transnational, and commercially motivated political and intellectual realm we live in, but it is something different, formulated in different cultural and systematic modes and processes. Crucially, it is a historic space which, unlike modernity, can claim no singular genealogy. Although epistemologically coherent, it provides no genealogical link back to a cultural and historic unity. Rather, it demonstrates the diversity that preceded the global modern world.

Early modern Japan specifically, and early modern East Asia more generally, are particularly useful examples for seeing how, in fields as diverse as politics, medicine, intelligence, technology, and diplomacy, the reformulation of originally Western global systems was crucially led by other, earlier, regional but aspirationally global systems of transcultural interaction, information transmission, and cultural reinvention which had nothing at all to do with the West. This process of reformulation is of course still going on today, and as Europe continues to decline in relation to the rest of the world—economically, politically, and culturally—these reformulations become globally more central. Early modern history thus provides us with a particularly powerful tool for understanding the way in which information and knowledge are reformulated in cultural reinvention, how that has been happening since before the modern world, and how that earlier history continues to affect an ongoing reformulation.


(1) S. Kaviraj, ‘Global Intellectual History: Meanings and Methods’, in S. Moyn and A. S. Sartori, Global Intellectual History (New York, Columbia University Press, 2013), pp. 295–320, at pp. 300–10. Yet he also expressed dissatisfaction with the concept of early modernity itself (p. 314). An ambivalence about the concept of the early modern can be found throughout the volume, notably in Andrew Sartori’s chapter focusing on political economy, pp. 120–2. On the other hand, the importance of the early modern period is emphasised by Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori in the introduction to the same volume, p. 23.

(2) S. Subrahmanyam, ‘Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia’, Modern Asian Studies, 31 (1997), 735–62; S. Subrahmanyam, ‘Hearing Voices: Vignettes of Early Modernity in South Asia, 1400–1750’, Daedalus, 127 (1998), 75–104.

(3) S. Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2005). Subrahmanyan almost admits this himself in his preface to this book, referring to his project as integration of Indian history with ‘a larger Eurasian space of conjectural movements’ (p. x). In other words, Indian national history might need globalising, but Eurocentric imperial history not necessarily. The content of the chapters in this volume clearly reveal the European focus of his outlook. Even the one of the few chapter not putting a European outlook in the title, a chapter claiming to be about ‘Persianisation’, still concludes with an argument which is ultimately concerned primarily with the position of Europeans (as opposed to other ethnicities) at the Mughal court (pp. 78–9).

(4) This holds not only for the conquered and colonised states of India and Indonesia, but also for semi-colonised societies such as China and Japan. These countries, even if not conquered by the West, were put under enough military pressure to bring down their early modern states, causing destruction of institutions and archives nonetheless. This destruction was less in Japan due to the mildness of the military conflict which brought down the early modern state, and the limited physical destruction brought about by Western military intervention. In many parts of China, on the other hand, semi-colonialism proved at least as destructive for archives as full-blown colonialism in other parts of Asia.

(5) Most famously in C. A. Bayly, Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870 (Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1996).

(6) J. E. Wilson, The Domination of Strangers: Modern Governance in Eastern India, 1780–1835 (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

(7) S. Alavi, The Sepoys and the Company: Tradition and Transition in Northern India, 1770–1830 (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1995); S. Alavi, Islam and Healing: Loss and Recovery of an Indo-Muslim Medical Tradition, 1600–1900 (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

(8) R. Ricci, Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2011); N. Green, Making Space: Sufis and Settlers in Early Modern India (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2012).

(9) S. Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2006); Kaviraj, ‘Global Intellectual History’, p. 300.

(10) J. A. Fogel, Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2009).

(11) Or indeed Latin in medieval and early modern Europe.

(12) M. E. Berry, Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2006); E. Ikegami, Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005); R. Rubinger, Popular Literacy in Early Modern Japan (Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2007). This kind of major work on Japanese history has tended to avoid discussion of the interaction between this field and Sinosphere culture. This to an extent conforms to the traditional modern historiographical outlook established in late 19th-century Japan which sought to underplay foreign aspects of pre-modern Japanese culture as part of the utilisation of history in national ideology construction. See S. Tanaka, Japan’s Orient: Rendering Pasts into History (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993).

(13) One exception is the recently recovered and published daily archival records of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Confucian Academy: Shōheizaka Gakumonjo Nikki [The Daily Records of the Shōheizaka Academy] (Tokyo, Shibunkai, 2007).

(15) B. A. Elman, A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000).

(16) Hashimoto Akihiko, Edo Bakufu Shiken Seidoshi No Kenkyū [Research on the Examination Systems of the Tokugawa Shogunate] (Tokyo, Kazama Shobō, 1994). Author names of all works written in Chinese or Japanese referenced in this chapter appear with surname first, followed by given name (thus Hashimoto is here the surname).

(17) Maeda Tsutomu, Edo No Dokushokai: Kaidoku No Shisōshi [Edo Reading Groups: An Intellectual History of Social Reading] (Tokyo, Heibonsha, 2012); R. Rubinger, Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1982); Tsujimoto Masashi, Kinsei Kyōiku Shisōshi No Kenkyū: Nihon Ni Okeru ‘Kōkyōiku’ Shisō No Genryū [Research into Early Modern Educational Thought: The Roots of ‘Education’ Thought in Japan] (Kyōto, Shibunkaku Shuppan, 1990).

(19) Ōba Osamu, Edo Jidai Ni Okeru Tōsen Mochiwatarisho No Kenkyū, vol. 1 [Research into the Import of Chinese Books in the Edo Period] (Suita, Kansai Daigaku Tōzai Gakujutsu Kenkyūjo Kenkyū Sōkan, 1967).

(20) Maeda Tsutomu, Edo kōki no shisō kūkan [The Late Edo Period’s Intellectual Sphere] (Tokyo, Perikansha, 2009); Tsujimoto, Kinsei kyōiku shisōshi no kenkyū.

(21) P. F. Kornicki, The Book in Japan: A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century (Leiden, Brill, 1998); J. W. Hall and J. L. MacClain (eds), The Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 4: Early Modern Japan (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991).

(22) The rule was propagated in a 1635 revision of the Regulations for Samurai Households, drafted by Hayashi Razan and proclaimed by Tokugawa Iemitsu. Tokugawa jikki [Annals of the Tokugawa], ed. Kuroita Katsumi and Kokushi Taikei Henshūkai (Tokyo, Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 1981).

(23) Constantine Vaporis, Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press for the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1994); Constantine Vaporis, Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan (Honolulu, University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2008).

(24) Hayami Akira and Saitō Osamu, Population, Family and Society in Pre-Modern Japan: Collected Papers of Akira Hayami, vol. 4 (Folkestone, Global Oriental, 2009); Hayami Akira, Kinsei Nihon No Keizai Shakai [Early Modern Japanese Economic Society] (Tokyo, Reitaku Daigaku Shuppankai, 2003); Jan De Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008).

(26) Anna Maria Josephina Josephus Beerens, ‘Friends, Acquaintances, Pupils and Patrons: Japanese Intellectual Life in the Late Eighteenth Century: A Prosopographical Approach’, Doctoral thesis (Leiden, 2006), https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/4389 (accessed 3 October 2017), p. 199. See also the list of acquaintances listed under twenty different fields of interest gleaned from the diary of just one person, Takayama Hikokurō, at http://www5.wind.ne.jp/hikokuro/koyuroku.htm (accessed 6 August 2013).

(27) See for instance the introductions to the Tokugawa period ‘Western Learning’ primary sources collection: Yōgaku [Western Learning], ed. Hirose Hideo, Nakayama Shigeru, Ogawa Teizō. Nihon Shisō Taikei (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1972), pp. 64–5; A. Horiuchi, ‘When Science Develops Outside State Patronage: Dutch Studies in Japan at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century’, Early Science and Medicine, 8 (2003), 148–72, in particular 166–70.

(28) Also as outlined in what is still the standard survey work on the history of Japanese medicine, the originally 1910 work: Fujikawa Yū, Nihon Igakushi [A History of Japanese Medicine] (Tokyo, Nisshin Shoin, 1941). Fujikawa, who was German educated, also wrote a similar book in German: Fujikawa Yū, Geschichte der Medizin in Japan: kurzgefasste Darstellung der Entwicklung der japanischen Medizin mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Einführung der Europäischen Heilkunde in Japan (Tokyo, Kaiserlich-Japanisches Unterrichtsministerium, 1911). We shall also return to this issue through different primary sources later in the chapter.

(29) T. Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan: The Lens within the Heart (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 42–6, more on the relationship between Tokugawa state Confucian interventions and the promotion of Western science later in this chapter.

(30) Motoori Norinaga, ed. Muraoka Tsunetsugu (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1966).

(31) P. Flueckiger, ‘Reflections on the Meaning of Our Country: Kamo No Mabuchi’s Kokuikō’, Monumenta Nipponica, 63 (2008), 211–38, at 212.

(32) Maruyama Masao, Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1974).

(33) As pointed out even before Maruyama by Tsuda Sōkichi, Shina no shisō [The Thought of China] (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1947 [originally pre-1937]), pp. 53–76.

(34) L. Blussé and C. Viallé, The Deshima Dagregisters: Their Original Tables of Contents, vol. XI: 1641–1650 (Leiden, Institute for the History of European Expansion, 2001), pp. i–xi; Matsukata Fuyuko, Oranda fūsetsugaki to kinsei nihon [Dutch Intelligence Reports in Early Modern Japan] (Tokyo, Tōkyō daigaku shuppankai, 2007).

(35) Honma Sadao, ‘Motogi Shōhei’, in M. W. Michel, Torii Yumiko, and Kawashima Mahito (eds), Kyūshū No Rangaku: Ekkyō to Kōryū [Kyushu Dutch Studies: Exchanges in a Borderland] (Kyoto, Shibunkaku Shuppan, 2009), pp. 112–13.

(36) Ogyū Sorai’s Seidan is contained in this source collection: Ogyū Sorai, ed. Yoshikawa Kōjirō, Nihon Shisō Taikei 36 (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1973), with the relevant section on pp. 439–40.

(37) The best source evidence for this can be found in the recently published daily (archival) records of the Shogunal Confucian Academy: Shōheizaka Gakumonjo Nikki [The Daily Records of the Shōheizaka Academy] (Tokyo, Shibunkai, 2007).

(38) Shibano Ritsuzan, Ritsuzan Jōsho [Ritsuzan’s Memorial] (manuscript dated 1788) (manuscript in the Nanki Bunko collection of the General Library of the University of Tokyo) was the main source consulted for the research of this chapter. However, three other manuscript copies in the same library were also consulted for comparison. In citations, I give page numbers from the only printed edition, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, ed. Takimoto Seiichi [Collected Documents of Japanese Political Economy], vol. 17 (Tokyo, Nihon Keizai Sōsho Kankōkai, 1914). It should be noted, however, that there are significant omissions from this printed versions, as well as additions not found in most manuscript editions. Some of these omissions appear to have political nuances, for instance the names of certain figures condemned in the manuscript texts are omitted from the same passages of the printed copy. The printed version cannot be considered reliable.

(39) The order can be found in a shogunal order issued by Matsudaira on the 24th day of the fifth month Kansei Year 2 (1790). It has been fully translated in R. L. Backus, ‘The Relationship of Confucianism to the Tokugawa Bakufu as Revealed in the Kansei Educational Reform’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 34 (1974), 97–162.

(41) Mori Saburō, Takishi no jiseki (Tokyo, Ōzorasha, 1998), p. 209.

(42) This can be seen most clearly in the official shogunate-controlled state doctors’ registries: Manase Yōanin, Kan’i Kafu [House Register of State Doctors] (Manuscript held in University of Tokyo Historiographical Institute). Scholarly discussion using these and other sources can be found in Machi Senjurō, ‘The Development of Scholarship in the Igakkan (1): The Founding of the Igakkan’, Journal of the Japan Society of Medical History, 45 (1999), 339–72.

(44) Mitani Hiroshi, Escape from Impasse: The Decision to Open Japan (Tokyo, International House of Japan, 2006), pp. 30–6.

(45) Aoki Toshiyuki, Edo Jidai No Igaku: Meiitachi No 300-Nen [Medicine of the Edo Period: Three Hundred Years of Famous Doctors] (Tokyo, Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2012).

(46) Oranda gen [Dutch Words], Manuscript with Igakukan seals dated 1843, Special Collection of Waseda University Library.

(48) Makabe Jin, Tokugawa Kōki No Gakumon to Seiji; Shōheizaka Gakumonjo Jusha to Bakumatsu Gaikō Hen ʼyō [Politics and Academia in the Late Tokugawa Period: The Shōheizaka Academy Confucians and Change in Late Shogunate Diplomacy] (Nagoya, Nagoya Daigaku Shuppankai, 2007).

(49) Koga Seiri, Kyokuron jiji fūji [A Secret Memorial on the Urgency of Current Affairs] (1778?), in Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17. I follow Mikiso Hane’s English translation of the title of this work as he gave it in his translation of Maruyama, Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan, p. 344. The work itself has never been translated, or indeed much studied in any language.

(50) The latter is reproduced in Mitogaku [Mito Learning], ed. Imai Usaburō, Seya Yoshihiko, and Bitō Masahide, Nihon Shisō Taikei, 53 (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 1973).

(51) Koga Tōan’s Kaibō okusoku [Peripheral Sea Defence] (1839) is usually cited as one of the major Tokugawa era works on coastal defence. On this work see Mitani, Escape from Impasse, pp. 36–40.

(52) Koga Seiri, Kyokuron jiji fūji, in Takimoto, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17, pp. 170–2.

(53) Koga Seiri, Jūjikai [Explication on Ten Points], in Takimoto, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17, p. 157.

(54) Koga Seiri, Kyokuron jiji fūji, in Takimoto, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17, pp. 174–7.

(55) Koga Seiri, Kyokuron jiji fūji, in Takimoto, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17, p. 172; Zhu Xi, Si Shu Zhang Ju Ji Zhu [Zhu Xi Commentary on the Four Books] (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju, 1983), p. 290; Zhu Xi, Zhuzi Yu Lei [Zhu Xi’s Comments] (Beijing, Zhonghua shuju, 1985), p. 2449.

(56) M. C. Elliott, The Manchu Way; the Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2001); P. C. Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2005). The use of the word ‘imperialism’ and the comparison with contemporary Western imperialism can be found in K. W. Larsen, Tradition, Treaties, and Trade: Qing Imperialism and Chosŏn Korea, 1850–1910 (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2008), pp. 1–10.

(57) Koga Seiri, Kyokuron jiji fūji, in Takimoto, Nihon Keizai Sōsho, vol. 17, p. 185.

(58) Ye Fan, Xin Jiao Ben Hou Han Shu Bing Fu Bian Shi San Zhong [New Corrected Volume of the Book of the Later Han] (Taipei, Dingwen shuju, 1985), pp. 1576, 2281.

(60) Makabe Jin notes the significant effect of Qing commentaries on the development of Koga Seiri’s Confucianism, and the effect of Qing writings on both Seiri and Tōan’s approach to foreign relations (Makabe, Tokugawa Kōki no Gakumon to Seiji, pp. 232–81).

(61) On Mito School attitudes see Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Anti-Foreignism and Western Learning in Early-Modern Japan: The New Theses of 1825 (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1986).

(62) The Shōheishi document written by Shogunal Confucian Academy teachers, notably Okada Kansen, can be found in Nihon Kyōikushi Bunko [Library of Japanese Education History], ed. Kurokawa Mamichi (Tokyo, Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1977), vol. 6, pp. 21–3.

(63) Maeda Tsutomu, Kinsei Nihon No Jugaku to Heigaku [Early Modern Japanese Confucianism and Military Thought] (Tokyo, Perikansha, 1996), pp. 396–440; Mitani Hiroshi, Perii raikō [Perry’s Arrival in Port] (Tokyo, Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 2003), pp. 30–40.

(64) Officially first called the ‘Barbarian Documents Research Center’ bansho shirabesho, and in 1863 renamed the ‘Practical Learning Center’ kaiseijo.

(65) Sugawara Hikaru, Nishi Amane no seiji shisō [The Political Thought of Nishi Amane] (Tokyo, Perikansha, 2009).

(66) Kōno Yūri, Meiroku zasshi no seiji shisō: Sakatani Shiroshi to ‘dōri’ no chōsen [The Political Thought of the Meiroku Journals: Sakatani Shiroshi’s Struggle with Reason] (Tokyo, Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai, 2011).

(67) Full statistical analyses of the expansion of domainal state academies and their factional inclinations can be found in Ishikawa Ken, Nihon Gakkoshi No Kenkyu [Research into Japanese School History] (Tokyo, 1960). The section demonstrating the drift towards Shogunal Academy set trends can be found on pp. 258–9.

(68) B. Duke, The History of Modern Japanese Education: Constructing the National School System, 1872–1890 (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2009).

(69) Matsuda Kōichirō, Edo No Chishiki Kara Meiji No Seiji E [From Edo Knowledge to Meiji Politics] (Tokyo, Perikansha, 2008); Okubo Takeharu, The Quest for Civilization Encounters with Dutch Jurisprudence, Political Economy, and Statistics at the Dawn of Modern Japan (Leiden, Brill, 2014); Watanabe Hiroshi, A History of Japanese Political Thought, 1600–1901 (Tokyo, International House of Japan, 2012).

(70) Sandaihensanbutsu gunshoruijū, kojiruien, kokushosōmokuroku no shuppan bunka shi, ed. Kumata Atsumi (Tokyo, Bensei, 2009).