Japanese History: New Dimensions of Approach and Understanding

Japanese History: New Dimensions of Approach and Understanding

Japanese History: New Dimensions of Approach and Understanding

Japanese History: New Dimensions of Approach and Understanding

Excerpt

There has been less concern with the pageantry of the past and more with the development of social and economic institutions, with political and intellectual leaders, and with certain basic issues. These issues, or problems, will be taken up in detail at a later point; among them the most common subjects of recent historical concern have been the study of "Japanese feudalism," the Meiji Restoration, the totalitarian forties, and the Allied Occupation period.

In the main, Western historians in recent years have begun to approach Japanese history with greater maturity of judgment. Japanese history has left the realm of the purely exotic or hardly comprehensible and has found a secure position in the broadened concepts of world history. Granted that Japan has not been the creator of a major civilization or the maker of any remarkable era in world history, the country nonetheless can be of outstanding interest to the historian. As a member of the "Chinese zone of civilization," Japan maintained a cultural distinctiveness which is both intriguing and also profitably studied as a foil to the dominant Chinese pattern. As an Oriental culture which developed a society remarkably like that of feudal Europe, Japan's "middle ages" present fascinating possibilities for comparative studies, while the contrasting features of Japan's rapid modernization and China's laborious turn to Communism can be searched for lessons for other parts of Asia. The new generation of scholars has begun to view Japanese history, not merely as something unique in itself but as a subject which, when combined with the data of European history, provides a broader basis for the testing of general concepts of institutional change or other social theories.

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BASIC WORKS IN THE FIELD OF JAPANESE HISTORY

The historian today has a number of excellent critical guides to Western language works on Japanese history. The most concise and up-to-date is the section on Japan in A Guide to Historical Literature (compiled and edited by the American Historical Association, Washington, D. C., 1961). Offering a broader coverage of many disciplines and better suited as a general reference aid is . . .

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