History and the State in Nineteenth-Century Japan

History and the State in Nineteenth-Century Japan.  Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1998.

HistState cover edited for image

The rise of history as a modern scientific discipline is linked to the rise of the nation state in many countries, including Japan. In this book Margaret Mehl examines how the new imperial government, which replaced shogunal rule in 1868 made the compilation of an official national history part of the nation-building project. The focus of her study is on the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo. This research institute was originally a government office established to compile the official history. When the Office moved to the Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo) in 1888, its leading members helped establish history as an independent academic discipline. Margaret Mehl shows how the government’s efforts to legitimate the emperor-centred nation state, indigenous traditions of scholarship as well as impulses from the West combined to shape the modern discipline of history in Japan. Particular attention is given to the relationship between history and political ideology, German influence and the importance of history for national identity. The history of modern historical scholarship in Japan can be regarded as contemporaneous with the West, rather than in terms of Japan following the Western example.


Preface to the New Edition – Preface – Note on Japanese Names and Terms – Introduction – Historiography in the Service of the Meiji Government – The Activities of the Office of Historiography – The Form of Official Historiography – History as an Academic Discipline – History and Ideology in Conflict – Conclusion – Notes – Select Bibliography – Index