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Focus 3+4: The Intellectual History of the Edo Period


Dutch (or English, if necessary)

Admission requirements:

This course is conceived as an introduction to the study of the intellectual history of the Edo Period. The aim is to give the participants an impression of the organization of the intellectual world and the structure of the intellectual discourse, and of the research that has been done in this field during the last fifty years. The following topics come be up for discussion: the educational system, Chinese studies (Confucianism), Japanese Studies (Kokugaku), Dutch Studies (Rangaku), the relation between intellectual and political developments, and the adaptations that occurred at the very end of the Edo Period and the beginning of the Meiji Period. Buddhism should have been on the list, too, but too little research has been done on the Buddhism of the Edo Period to be able to include it in a seminar of this kind. We will, however, pay some attention to the polemics between Buddhism and Confucianism. An important theme throughout the course will be the relation with China. The culture of the Edo Period can best be studied as a variation on the larger East-Asian, i.e., Chinese civilization. Until Perry appeared, China was the model and even those scholars who tried to uphold Japan’s autochthonous culture as a serious alternative to “China” did so on the basis of what were effectively Chinese values. The first fundamental opposition to China’s civilization was voiced by students of Dutch Studies.

Course objectives:
This course has three main aims. Firstly, to equip the participants with an understanding of the most important issues in the intellectual history of Edo Period. Secondly, to introduce the participants to a range of sources of Japan’s intellectual history of this period. Thirdly, to equip the participants with the skills needed to read and judge (modern western) research in this field.

Check the Timetable-site.

Mode of instruction:
Seminar: First hour lecture based, second hour tutorial based.

Assessment method: Class Discussion and Readings: 20% Review Paper: 20% Group Research and Presentation: 20% Individual Research Paper: 40%

No, we will use e-mails. Readings will mostly be downloaded through JSTOR and Project Muse.

Reading list:
A wide range of journal articles and selected source readings (in translation).

Enrollment via uSis is mandatory.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information:
Prof. Dr. W.J. Boot: