Berry on Early Modern Information

I admit that I’m a great admirer of Berry, but this is going to be fun. My own thoughts about Early modern Japan as an intellectual renaissance are going to have to be tested against this scholarship.

The University of California Press is pleased to announce the publication of:

Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period

Mary Elizabeth Berry is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of _The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto_ (California, 1994) and _Hideyoshi_ (1982).

“In _Japan in Print_, Mary Elizabeth Berry crisply condenses a remarkable amount of primary research on difficult and little-known materials, and it interprets those materials in a highly original framework.”-Karen E. Wigen, author of _The Making of a Japanese Periphery, 1750-1920_

A quiet revolution in knowledge separated the early modern period in Japan from all previous time. After 1600, self-appointed investigators used the model of the land and cartographic surveys of the newly unified state to observe and order subjects such as agronomy, medicine, gastronomy, commerce, travel, and entertainment. They subsequently circulated their findings through a variety of commercially printed texts: maps, gazetteers, family encyclopedias, urban directories, travel guides, official personnel rosters, and instruction manuals for everything from farming to lovemaking. In this original and gracefully written book, Mary Elizabeth Berry considers the social processes that drove the information explosion of the 1600s. Inviting readers to examine the contours and
meanings of this transformation, Berry provides a fascinating account of the conversion of the public from an object of state surveillance into a subject of self-knowledge.

Full information about the book, including the table of contents, is available online:

The use of maps and visual materials in Culture of Civil War gives us some hints about the direction she’s likely going here. I love my job.


  1. This “quiet revolution” owed much to Oda Nobunaga and Hashiba (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi! The miltary stability which they brought to Japan coupled with Hideyoshi’s cadastral survey, the control/suppression of foreign distractors represented by the Portuguese and Dutch countervailing interests, and the ordering and organization of the shoguns provided opportunities for intellectual and commercial elements to propel society forward. Japan certainly had had a “quiet” industrial revolution which Westerners failed to appreciate fully since it didn’t look just like the Western model. It appears that Berry’s book may play a useful role in highlighting an important and somewhat overlooked transition.

    Doc Rock

  2. I think she’s taking the transition to peace pretty much as given (having covered most of that ground in Hideyoshi, though there’s been some revision of that in the intervening years) and is focusing on the “print revolution” aspect of the 16-17th centuries. But I won’t know for sure until I read it.

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