Review Section Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 16401868. By Robert I. Hellyer. Harvard University Asia Center, Cambridge, Mass., 2009. xvi, 281 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Mark Ravina Emory University This book is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on trade and diplomacy in early modern East Asia. Hellyer's research builds on the wellknown work of Arano Yasunori and Ronald Toby from the 1980s. They demonstrated that, contrary to the then-dominant interpretation, the shogunate did not establish a comprehensive isolationist policy (sakoku) in the 1630s. Rather, the "closed country" edicts of the early 1600s focused narrowly on specific problems, such as the danger of Christianity. The term sakoku itself did not appear until the 1800s, and before then the shogunate did not proscribe foreign contacts but sought to shape those contacts so as to enhance shogunal prestige and legitimacy. Once radical, the Arano-Toby thesis has become established wisdom and Hellyer refines it, adding his own insights. Hellyer looks at early modern trade and diplomacy from the perspective of two domains: Tsushima and Satsuma. He demonstrates elegantly that both domains chafed under shogunal oversight and deceived the Edo government in order to advance their local interests. The result
The Journal of Japanese Studies – Society for Japanese Studies
Published: Jul 14, 2012
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