Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945
266 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
13 b&w illustrations
Release Date:01 Jun 1999
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Release Date:01 Jan 1998
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945

The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu

UBC Press

Ancient tales tell of Japan's creation in the Age of the Gods, and of Jinmu, a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess and first emperor of the imperial line. These founding myths went unchallenged until Confucian scholars in the Tokugawa period initiated a reassessment of the ancient history of Japan. The application of Western theories of modern scientific history in the Meiji period further intensified the attacks on traditional beliefs. However, with the rise of ultranationalism following the Meiji Constitution of 1889, official state ideology insisted on the literal truth of these myths, and scholars who argued otherwise soon met with public hostility and government suppression.

In Japanese Historians and the National Myths, John Brownlee examines how Japanese historians between 1600 and 1945 interpreted the ancient myths of their origins. These myths lay at the core of Japanese identity and provided legitimacy for the imperial state. Focusing on the theme of conflict and accommodation between scholars on one side and government and society on the other, Brownlee follows the historians' reactions to pressure and trends and their eventual understanding of history as a science in the service of the Japanese nation.

This is the first comprehensive study of modern Japanese historians and their relationship to nationalism. It breaks new ground in its treatment of Japanese intellectual history and provides new insights into the development of Japan as a nation. Japanese Historians and the National Myths will prove invaluable to scholars of Japanese history on both sides of the Pacific, as well as to those interested in political ideology, nationalism, censorship, and mythology.

This work would constitute an excellent introduction to the modern history of the discipline of Japanese history up to the end of the Pacific war. Herman Ooms, Canadian Journal of History
Brownlee offers the first full treatment of historical perspectives on the central Japanese creation myth .... Soundly researched with a wealth of Japanese sources, this is an important book, useful to specialists and nonspecialists alike. C.A. Desnoyers, Choice
Brownlee is careful not to condemn historians working under different conditions at different times. ... Yet he convincingly demonstrates the pitfalls of state-controlled education. And he is concerned about his contemporary Japanese colleagues, warning that they ‘do not appreciate the perils of misstatement and of failure to speak out.’ His highly readable book is a vivid testimony that the history of history can be just as fascinating as history. Florian Coulmas, Japan Times
John S. Brownlee is a Professor of History, University of Toronto.

Part I: The Tokugawa Period

1 Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) and Hayashi Gaho (1618-80): Founders of Modern Historical Scholarship

2 Dai Nihon Shi [History of Great Japan]

3 Arai Hakuseki (1657-1725) and Yamagata Banto (1748-1821): Pure Rationalism

4 Date Chihiro (1802-77): Taisei Santen Ko [Three Stages in the History of Japan]

5 The Resistance of National Scholars

Part II: The Modern Century

6 European Influences on Meiji Historical Writing

7 The Beginnings of Academic History

8 The Kume Kunitake Incident, 1890-2

9 The Development of Academic History

10 The Southern and Northern Courts Controversy, 1911

11 Eminent Historians in the 1930s: The Betrayal of Scientific History

12 The Commission of Inquiry into Historical Sites Related to Emperor Jinmu, 1940

13 Tsuda Sokichi (1873-1961): An Innocent on the Loose

Epilogue: Historical Scholarship, Education, and Politics in Postwar Japan

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