Japan’s Sakoku Period

4 Apr, 2013 950 History of Asia

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Japan’s Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the Western world. Sakoku began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their country and expelled most of the Europeans living there. For the next two hundred years, Dutch traders were the only Westerners free to live in Japan. It was not until 1858 and the gunboat diplomacy of the American Commodore Matthew Perry that Japan’s international isolation finally ended. Although historians used to think of Japan as completely isolated from external influence during this period, recent scholarship suggests that Japanese society was far less isolated from European ideas during this period than previously thought.

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  • Richard Bowring 2 episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge
  • Andrew Cobbing No other episodes
    Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham
  • Rebekah Clements No other episodes
    Research Fellow of Queens' College and Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge

Reading list

  • Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period
    Mary Elizabeth Berry (California University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650
    C. R. Boxer (University of California Press, 1974) Google Books →
  • Education in Tokugawa Japan
    R. P. Dore (Athlone Press, 1984) Google Books →
  • Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1640-1868
    Robert Hellyer (Harvard University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • A History of Japanese Political Thought, 1600-1901
    Watanabe Hiroshi (trans. David Noble) (International House of Japan, 2012) Google Books →
  • Japan in World History
    James Huffman (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan
    Eiko Ikegami (Harvard University Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • The Making of Modern Japan
    Marius B. Jansen (Harvard University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • An Edo Anthology: Literature from Japan's Mega-City
    Sumie Jones and Kenji Watanabe (eds.) (University of Hawai'i Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Kaempfer's Japan: Tokugawa Culture Observed
    Engelbert Kaempfer (trans. Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey) (University of Hawai'i Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • The Japanese Discovery of Europe: Honda Toshiaki and other discoverers, 1720-1798
    Donald Keene (Routledge & K. Paul, 1952) Google Books →
  • The Sakoku Edicts and the Politics of Tokugawa Hegemony
    Michael S. Laver (Cambria Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Lens Within the Heart : The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan
    Timon Screech (Curzon, 2002) Google Books →
  • Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology
    Haruo Shirane (Columbia University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia in the Development of the Tokugawa Bakufu
    Ronald P. Toby (Stanford University Press, 1991) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge History of Japan, vol 4: Early Modern Japan
    John Whitney Hall (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 1991) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b01rlptf

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rlptf

Auto-category: 952 (History of Japan)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, the third edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1797, contains a long article about Japan which states, quote, The natives are prohibited from going out of their country, and all foreigners are excluded from an open and free trade.