Hendrik Doeff Recollections of Japan

ISBN 13: 9781553958499

Recollections of Japan

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Recollections of Japan is a personal account of living in Tokugawa Japan in the beginning of the nineteenth century, from a European's perspective. The author, Hendrik Doeff, chief of the United Dutch East India Company in Deshima, mastered the Japanese language, giving him a unique grasp of the Japanese culture which he describes with dispassionate, journalistic objectivity and respect.

With Europe engulfed in the Napoleonic wars, Holland occupied by the French and the Dutch colonies usurped by the English, Hendrik Doeff successfully thwarted attempts by the Russians, English and Americans to break the Dutch monopoly on trade with Japan.

Twice English ships forced themselves into the bay of Nagasaki and only Doeff's skill and diplomacy prevented a massacre of the English which in turn might have provoked a was between England and Japan and changed history. Doeff also describes in detail one of his three treks to the Court in Edo and the eagerness of Japanese scholars to obtain Western knowledge. There is a link with America's early history as the Dutch used American ships, to circumvent the capture of their own ships by the English. An embargo imposed by the United States Congress had idled many American ships who sailed to the Pacific instead. This book is a micro history and gives a delicious insight into international intrigues, national pride, hatreds and prejudices in a time of competitive monopoly seeking. Most of all, it reveals how supposedly "closed" Japan kept a window open to the world, especially the West, which explains its rapid transformation from a feudal to an industrialized nation after Perry opened Japan to the wider world.

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