Courting beyond the Court: Performing Commensurability in the Early European Trade with Japan, 1609-1640
My research focuses on the shape and nature of the encounter between English and Dutch merchants and citizens of Tokugawa Japan at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Focusing on the trading factories established at Hirado in 1609 and 1613, I examine the manifold ways in which European merchants and Japanese citizens from across the Tokugawa social hierarchy engaged one other in cultural exchange, and argue that these social interactions served a key diplomatic function in Euro-Japanese relations of the period.
Through this study, I investigate the nature and shape of informal diplomacy as it was carried out in the early years of the English and Dutch East India Companies. I argue that strategies of integration, acculturation and assimilation were used by Company agents to ensure profitable trade with foreign powers in an age where European powers lacked the structures of hegemonic colonial dominance that would come to define later East India Company policy.
My research draws upon a range of sources, including diaries and correspondence produced at Hirado as well as visual materials such as nanban folding screens, netsuke and lacquerware, synthesising the textual, visual and material to provide a detailed insight into the extended encounter between Europe and Japan.