Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945: The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu

Synopsis

Ancient tales tell of Japan's creation in the Age of the Gods, and of Jinmu, a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess and first emperor of the imperial line. These founding myths went unchallenged until Confucian scholars in the Tokugawa period initiated a reassessment of the ancient history of Japan. The application of Western theories of modern scientific history in the Meiji period further intensified the attacks on traditional beliefs. However, with the rise of ultranationalism following the Meiji Constitution of 1889, official state ideology insisted on the literal truth of these myths, and scholars who argued otherwise soon met with public hostility and government suppression. In Japanese Historians and the National Myths, John Brownlee examines how Japanese historians between 1600 and 1945 interpreted the ancient myths of their origins. These myths lay at the core of Japanese identity and provided legitimacy for the imperial state. Focusing on the theme of conflict and accommodation between scholars on one side and government and society on the other, Brownlee follows the historians' reactions to pressure and trends and their eventual understanding of history as a science in the service of the Japanese nation. This is the first comprehensive study of modern Japanese historians and their relationship to nationalism. It breaks new ground in its treatment of Japanese intellectual history and provides new insights into the development of Japan as a nation. Japanese Historians and the National Myths will prove invaluable to scholars of Japanese history on both sides of the Pacific, as well as to those interested in political ideology, nationalism, censorship, and mythology.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Vancouver, B.C.
Publication year:
  • 1997