Howell, David L. 2014. “Foreign Encounters and Informal Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 40 (2): 295–327. doi:10.1353/jjs.2014.0075.
The apparent inevitability of Tokugawa Japan’s opening to the West in 1854 has naturalized the story of how a series of overtures from the late eighteenth century onward culminated in Commodore Matthew Perry’s successful mission. This essay proposes to disrupt that teleology through an examination of the differing responses of officials and commoners to a minor incident in 1824, which brought English whalers into contact with ordinary Japanese. The analysis places the incident both within domestic foreign policy debates and in a Pacific World that existed beyond the reach of any state.