Beyond the question of Japanese isolation (sakoku): Adam Laxman, Matsudaira Sadanobu, and the Kingdom of Cambodia

Mark Ravina, Visiting Research Professor, Kyoto University, Professor of History, Emory University

In 1792, Adam Laxmann, a Russian naval officer, visited Japan with the hope of starting trade relations. He came away with confusing instructions, which both rejected the possibility of trade and invited further negotiations. Historians have struggled to interpret the shogunate’s intensions. But understanding the shoguante’s instructions mission requires moving beyond a meta-narrative of Japanese isolation (sakoku) or “Japan and the West.” In dealing with Laxmann, shogunal officials discussed the precedents of trade with Cambodia, Luzon (Philippines), and Annam (Vietnam), rather than England or Spain. They did not draw on the idea of Russia as a “Western” state, but compared Russia to the developed, but non-Confucian countries of Southeast Asia. This paper re-examines Japanese-Russia relations in the broader context of Japanese diplomacy and transnational relations. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013 | 12:00 pm — 1:30 pm
Building 200 - Room 307, Main Quad

Department of History
Center for East Asian Studies