Fun Link Friday: Australian Pirates in Early Modern Japan?

A quickie fun link this week, as I’m off at the Japanese Text-Mining workshop in Georgia!

Watercolor of a British-flagged ship in a samurai account.

The Guardian just posted an article this past weekend announcing that fresh translations of a samurai account from the nineteenth century have provided more substantial evidence of an otherwise tall tale about a ship full of convicts reaching Japan’s shores in 1830. As stated in the article:

The brig Cyprus was hijacked by convicts bound from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour in 1829, in a mutiny that took them all the way to China. Its maverick skipper was William Swallow, a onetime British cargo ship apprentice and naval conscript in the Napoleonic wars, who in a piracy trial in London the following year told of a samurai cannonball in Japan knocking a telescope from his hand. Swallow’s fellow mutineers, two of whom were the last men hanged for piracy in Britain, backed his account of having been to Japan.

Western researchers, citing the lack of any Japanese record of the Cyprus, had since ruled the convicts’ story a fabrication.

Apparently an English teacher and history buff in Japan managed to connect the dots between this previously unverified story and early modern accounts that discussed a ship anchored in Shikoku in 1830. Though I’d be curious to see if Japanese scholars made this connection before now, either way it makes for a newsworthy tale! Check out more details at the full article here.

Happy Friday!

About Paula

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