Families in Tokugawa Japan

History 103F.002

Spring 2016
201 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
Tu 400-600

We shall look at many kinds of families through a great variety of sources to explore the (changing) norms and (disparate) practices that shaped households in the Early Modern Period of rule by the Tokugawa shoguns (1600-1868). We shall examine the families of samurai, peasants, merchants, and geisha through sources that include memoirs, laws, ethical texts, fiction and drama, demographic evidence, the observations of foreigners, and various visual materials (from woodblock prints and book illustrations to photographs). We shall explore the variable understandings of key concepts (love and sex, marriage and divorce, childhood and life-cycles). And we shall try to think through the very place of the family in Tokugawa society. It was ideally imagined as an immortally continuous stem household (linking three generations of relations as well as all dependents employed in the household enterprise) that provided the foundation for the harmonious state. But was it also a place of privacy and intimacy, volatility and experiment, that set the state at a troubled distance? No prerequisites. No knowledge of Japanese history presumed. All are heartily welcome. (I hope some of you might find meat here for a future 101.) Brief weekly reading reports. One short essay and one longer essay also required.