Ancient tales tell of Japan's creation in the Age of the Gods,
and of Jinmu, a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess and first
emperor of the imperial line. These founding myths went
unchallenged until Confucian scholars in the Tokugawa period
initiated a reassessment of the ancient history of Japan. The
application of Western theories of modern scientific history in the
Meiji period further intensified the attacks on traditional
beliefs. However, with the rise of ultranationalism following the
Meiji Constitution of 1889, official state ideology insisted on the
literal truth of these myths, and scholars who argued otherwise
soon met with public hostility and government suppression.
In Japanese Historians and the National Myths, John Brownlee
examines how Japanese historians between 1600 and 1945 interpreted
the ancient myths of their origins. These myths lay at the core of
Japanese identity and provided legitimacy for the imperial state.
Focusing on the theme of conflict and accommodation between
scholars on one side and government and society on the other,
Brownlee follows the historians' reactions to pressure and trends
and their eventual understanding of history as a science in the
service of the Japanese nation.
This is the first comprehensive study of modern Japanese
historians and their relationship to nationalism. It breaks new
ground in its treatment of Japanese intellectual history and
provides new insights into the development of Japan as a nation.
Japanese Historians and the National Myths will prove invaluable to
scholars of Japanese history on both sides of the Pacific, as well
as to those interested in political ideology, nationalism,
censorship, and mythology.
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