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Japan In The Victorian Imagination

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Chapter Summary

One of the earliest Western records about Japan can be found in the writing of Marco Polo in the late-thirteenth century. In the early-seventeenth century the Japanese were very active in foreign trade and expanded their interests to include South Asia. Up until the mid-nineteenth century, the narratives by Engelbert Kaempfer remained the most comprehensive works written by a Westerner about Japan, serving as the benchmark for primary sources on Japan until well after the 1850s. The sense of Japan being cloistered from the corruption of change and retaining an unsullied, child-like innocence, paralleled the protective Victorian patriarchal response, and placed Japan in the same category as women and children. In 1858, Japan signed commercial treaties with America, Holland, Russia, Britain and France which stated that three ports, Kanagawa (in fact Yokohama), Nagasaki and Hakodate, would be opened for trade in 1859.

Keywords: Engelbert Kaempfer; Japan; South Asia; Victorian patriarchal response

10.1163/ej.9781905246731.i-327.18
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