The Newsletter 63 Spring 2013

Breaking the plough. On studying agricultural guidebooks of early modern Japan

Stefan Jeka

Economic and social developments significantly stimulated both quantity and genre variety of the literary production in Tokugawa era Japan (1603-1868). Hitherto most western academic discussion shows a strong affinity to philosophical treatises and economical theories of prominent scholars, records of the ruling class and the popular literature of the townspeople. Studies about works classified as nôsho, writings concerning agricultural matters, are notably scarce. One may assume this lack of interest would simply reflect an absence of intellectual depth within these most diverse texts, but a closer look reveals quite the opposite and shows links to current global struggles.

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