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Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan
280pp. March 2015
Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan
Author: Roberts, Luke S.;
Performing the Great Peace offers a cultural approach to understanding the politics of the Tokugawa period, at the same time deconstructing some of the assumptions of modern national historiographies. Deploying the political terms uchi (inside), omote (ritual interface), and naisho (informal negotiation)—all commonly used in the Tokugawa period—Luke Roberts explores how daimyo and the Tokugawa government understood political relations and managed politics in terms of spatial autonomy, ritual submission, and informal negotiation.

Roberts suggests as well that a layered hierarchy of omote and uchi relations strongly influenced politics down to the village and household level, a method that clarifies many seeming anomalies in the Tokugawa order. He analyzes in one chapter how the identities of daimyo and domains differed according to whether they were facing the Tokugawa or speaking to members of the domain and daimyo household: For example, a large domain might be identified as a“country” by insiders and as a “private territory” in external discourse. In another chapter he investigates the common occurrence of daimyo who remained formally alive to the government months or even years after they had died in order that inheritance issues could be managed peacefully within their households. The operation of the court system in boundary disputes is analyzed as are the “illegal” enshrinements of daimyo inside domains that were sometimes used to construct forms of domain-state Shinto.

Performing the Great Peace’s convincing analyses and insightful conceptual framework will benefit historians of not only the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, but Japan in general and others seeking innovative approaches to premodern history.

3 illus., 2 maps

"This is an exciting and original work. Performing the Great Peace analyzes a central tension within the Tokugawa political order: the balance of power between the shogun and the daimyo. . . . This book is a major accomplishment that substantially alters our understanding of Tokugawa politics. Roberts’s mastery of Tosa archival sources is unparalleled and is supported by his extensive use of published primary sources and careful consideration of the secondary literature. The result is a study that is both boldly innovative and empirically exacting." –Monumenta Nipponica
"After Roberts, scholars must look at the performative nature of Tokugawa politics as having been integral to the stability of the realm." Jason Morgan, Japan Review

“Roberts has delivered an outstanding work. The research is thorough, the thesis is compelling, and the writing is clear. Add to that the variety of topics handled in the case studies, and one must conclude that this is a work that deserves to be read not only by specialists of political culture, but everyone with an interest in premodern Japanese culture and society.” —International Association of Asian Studies Newsletter (63, spring 2013)

“A gracefully-written study of the performance of authority in Tokugawa politics. It is also one of the most thoughtful historical studies that I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time. In the course of rereading Tokugawa documents to propose a wonderfully fresh way of thinking about political space in history, Roberts challenges us to rethink our assumptions about how to read evidence of such seemingly basic categories as life and death, truth and secrecy. A boon for scholars of Japan and non-specialists alike, Performing the Great Peace is worth a read for anyone interested in what it means now, and what it has meant across space and time, to understand and write about the past.” —New Books in East Asian Studies (1 June 2012)

Author: Roberts, Luke S.;
Luke S. Roberts is professor of early modern Japanese history at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Read the Introduction (PDF).
Names, Dates, and Units Used in the Text 

1. The Geography of Politics 
2. Performing the Tokugawa Right to Know 
3. Politics of the Living Dead 
4. Territorial Border Disputes 
5. Daimyo Gods 
6. Histories 

Works Cited