Illustration of people riding on boats featured in light blue cover


A Maritime History of East Asia


392 pages, B5 format, hardcover




February, 2019



Published by

Kyoto University Press & Trans Pacific Press

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A Maritime History of East Asia

Japanese Page

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In recent years, the concept of “maritime history” has been introduced into historical circles in Japan, too, as a method for analyzing the flow of history by understanding it as something shaped by dynamic and composite factors, rather than adhering to a framework premised on the history of bilateral relations between various countries. This method of research was established by Fernand Braudel of the French Annales School and his book The Mediterranean, and the Japanese translation of this book (first published in 1991) has had an enormous influence on historical circles in Japan.
During the past fifteen years or so there have appeared many studies employing the framework of “maritime history.” In particular, the research project “Maritime Cross-cultural Exchange in East Asia and the Formation of Japanese Traditional Culture: Interdisciplinary Creation Focusing on Ningbo” (2007–12), funded by a grant-in-aid for scientific research, resulted in the 20-volume series Maritime East Asia and the 6-volume series Setting Off into Maritime East Asia. Keeping in close communication with each other and spurring each other on in their research, historians dealing primarily with Japan, China, and Korea conducted joint research to build a new picture of Asian history that, from a perspective going far beyond earlier paradigms, focused on changes in the living environment of people living in this maritime region and on the growth of interactions among them. The contributors to the present book were the main contributors to History Seen from the Sea (ed.-in-chief, Haneda Masashi; University of Tokyo Press, 2013), vol. 1 of the series Setting Off into Maritime East Asia. The book is divided into three parts and describes in detail maritime East Asia during three periods: (1) 1250–1350, when trade between East and West Eurasia stepped up under the loose and wide-area rule of Asia by the Mongols; (2) 1500–1600, when European powers gradually advanced eastwards and smuggling by wokou and so on flourished; and (3) 1700–1800, when the system for managing interactions among different states was more or less brought to completion and trade was conducted under the umbrella of diplomacy. Presenting an account coordinated by a team, rather than contributions by individual researchers, also required considerable effort. The prime objective of the present work was to have published by an overseas publisher an English version of History Seen from the Sea that had been subjected to meticulous consultation and proofreading by the joint researchers, who included Anglophone researchers of Asian maritime history. This book delineates in an integrated manner the history of a wide area, going beyond the histories of individual countries and land-centred history.
The authors of this book, thinking that it was essential to communicate in English in order to inform overseas researchers of interactions between Japan and other parts of East Asia mediated by the sea, spent about five years preparing the English text and checking the English translation against advances in research. The publication of this book was subsidized by a publication subvention from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and a research subvention from the Kashima Foundation.

(Written by OKA Mihoko, Associate Professor, Historiographical Institute / 2019)

Table of Contents

Editors’ Biographies
Contributors to the English version
Preface to the English Edition
Part 1: The Open Sea, from 1250 to 1350
1.1 General Overview
1.2 The Background to Maritime Interaction and Its Agents
1.3 Increased Openness: Maritime Merchants Expand Maritime Interactions
1.4 What Conflicts with the Mongols Wrought: Isolationism Within Openness
1.5 Traffic in Goods and Technology: Expanding the Field of Interaction and Mutual Exchange
Part 2: Competing for the Sea, from 1500 to 1600
2.1 General Overview
2.2 The Age of the Wokou: Transformations in the Structure of East Asian Trade
2.3 The Age of Maritime Merchants
2.4 Development of Diverse and Hybrid Cultures
Part 3: The Compartmentalized Sea, from 1700 to 1800
3.1 General Overview
3.2 Maritime Merchants and “Compartmentalization” Among Early Modern States
3.3 Compression and Concentration of Interactions and Residences
3.4 Trans-Oceanic Movements of Goods and Information
Historical Geography Index
Name Index
Subject Index

Related Info

Book information:
Masashi Haneda & Mihoko OKA eds. "A Maritime History of East Asia"  (Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia)
Book Review:
Adam Clulow (Monumenta Nipponica, Sophia University Vol.74 Number 2, 2019 pp.261-264)

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