About Margaret Mehl

Margaret Mehl – Author, Researcher and Lecturer with a Passion for History, Music, and Japan

I grew up in Germany. From 1981 to 1991, I studied Japanese Studies (Japanology) and History at the University of Bonn. I first visited Japan in summer 1984, taking part in a field trip organized by the Japanese Studies Department at Bonn. After the field trip I stayed in Tokyo until the following spring, deepening my knowledge of Japanese language and culture and researching historical sources for what later was to become my M.A. thesis, which I completed in 1987 and which was published in 1991 as Carl Köppen und sein Wirken als Militärinstrukteur für das Fürstentum  Kii-Wakayama (1869–1872)[Carl Köppen as a Military Instructor for Kii-Wakayama Domain, 1869–1872 – download a free copy here].

After graduating from the University of Bonn with an M.A. in Japanese Studies and History, I returned to Japan on a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education. I spent two years studying at the University of Tokyo and conducting research for what was to become my Ph.D. thesis, published in 1992 as Eine Vergangenheit für die Japanische Nation. Die Entstehung des historischen Forschungsinstituts Tôkyô daigaku  Shiryô hensanjo (1869–1895) [A Past for the Japanese Nation: The Origins of the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo, 1869–1895 – download a free copy here].

In September 1991, I moved to England, my mother’s native country. I worked for just over two years as the Yasuda Trust and Banking Fellow in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Cambridge before moving to Scotland in January 1994.  For about 18 months I was a Japan Foundation Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Edinburgh before becoming a Lecturer in what was then the – alas, short-lived – Scottish Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Stirling. In the summer semester 2000 I also lectured as a Guest Professor at the Free University of Berlin.

Currently I teach at the University of Copenhagen, where I was appointed Assistant Professor in 2001 and Associate Professor in 2003. In 2005 I received the Danish Dr. Phil. (equivalent to German Habilitation) from the University of Copenhagen for my previously published book, Private Academies of Chinese Learning in Meiji Japan: the Decline and Transformation of the kangaku juku.

At around the same time I decided to make my hobby, playing the violin, my next research topic. The history of the violin in modern Japan and of music in general is a fascinating subject which can tell us much about Japanese culture and society, and it continues to excite me even after completing my book Not by Love Alone: The Violin in Japan, 1850 – 2010. My latest book, Music and the Making of Modern Japan: Joining the Global Concert is freely available from Open Book Publishers.
I have lived and researched on Japan on numerous occasions, thanks to the generous support of the Japan Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in conjunction with the British Academy and the Danish Rectors’ Conference, as well as the Canon Foundation. I have also spent a sabbatical in the United States, where I was an Edward T. Cone Member in Music Studies at the School of Historical Studies in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

When I am not reading, writing or teaching, I enjoy playing my violin: I have performed in amateur orchestras and chamber ensembles in several countries. While living in Edinburgh I also tried my hand at Scottish fiddle music.

Please have a look at my blog at violinist.com and my profile at the University of Copenhagen.

Contact Margaret Mehl.