Book Announcement: The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan

The Company and the ShogunAdam Clulow

Columbia Studies in International and Global History
Cloth, 352 pages, Color Illus.: 9, , Maps: 2,
ISBN: 978-0-231-16428-3
$55.00 /  $B# (B38.00

Published by Columbia University Press

The Company and the Shogun examines the encounter between the Dutch East India Company and Tokugawa Japan during the seventeenth century. The Dutch East India Company was a hybrid organization combining the characteristics of both corporation and state that attempted to thrust itself aggressively into an Asian political order in which it possessed no obvious place and was transformed in the process.

This study focuses on the company’s clashes with Tokugawa Japan over diplomacy, violence, and sovereignty. In each encounter the Dutch were forced to retreat, compelled to abandon their claims to sovereign powers, and to refashion themselves again and agai–from subjects of a fictive king to loyal vassals of the shogun, from aggressive pirates to meek merchants, and from insistent defenders of colonial sovereignty to legal subjects of the Tokugawa state. Within the confines of these conflicts, the terms of the relationship between the company and the shogun first took shape and were subsequently set into what would become their permanent form.

One of the first books to treat the Dutch East India Company in Japan as something more than just a commercial organization, The Company and the Shogun presents new perspective on one of the most important, long-lasting relationships to develop between an Asian state and a European overseas enterprise.


Introduction: Taming the Dutch
1. Royal Letters from the Republic
2. The Lord of Batavia
3. The Shogun’s Loyal Vassals
4. The Violent Sea
5. Power and Petition
6. Planting the Flag in Asia
7. Giving Up the Governor
Conclusion: The Dutch Experience in Japan

Editorial Reviews

“In this original and penetrating study, Adam Clulow brilliantly dissects the process through which Dutch merchants and their sponsors became subordinates rather than colonizers in Japan. The book masterfully weaves together storytelling and analysis while impressively mining both Dutch and Japanese sources. The result is not only the best available account of the Dutch East India Company in Japan but also an important contribution to the history of empire, piracy, law, and diplomacy in the early modern world. A remarkable achievement.”–Lauren Benton, New York University

“This is an excellent book. It makes a significant contribution to East Asian history, global history, and, I daresay, European history. It is based on a solid understanding of the relevant sources, Japanese and Western, and it is well written: polished, authoritative, and clear.”–Tonio Andrade, Emory University

“Grounded in alert readings of Dutch and Japanese sources, lucidly written, The Company and the Shogun shows how some ‘contained conflicts’ in the early 1600s constructed and reconstructed practices
of sovereignty that limited Dutch power and shaped Japan’s diplomatic tradition. It belongs in the library of anyone trying to understand Japan’s succession of distinctive relations to the outside world from Nara to Abe.”–John E. Wills Jr., University of Southern California

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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