AsianForum 140th "Politics of the Living Dead: Lords and Inheritance in Tokugawa Japan"

Tuesday,June 5,2012

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Asian Forum
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Conference Room 203/204, Dialogue House 2F

Luke Roberts
University of California Santa Barbara, Japanese History

Politics of the Living Dead: Lords and Inheritance in Tokugawa Japan

Strife within daimyo houses (oiesōdō) over who would be chosen as the heir to the daimyo was a major source of disorder in daimyo government. Early in the seventeenth century the Tokugawa government required a daimyo to personally designate his heir while healthy, and if he did not do this, say because of a mortal illness or his sudden early death, his realm was confiscated. This policy created the problem of numerous ronin who were dangerous to the new order, yet permitting relatives to choose an heir led to internal house strife. The Tokugawa suppressed disorder by requiring retainers and relatives keep the deaths of daimyo secret for days, months or in some cases years in order to successfully engineer adoptions and succession. Even though the secrets were often open secrets, everyone pretended or performed as if the lord were alive and that he personally chose his own heir because if the lord were formally known to be dead before his heir were chosen the Tokugawa would end the daimyo house and confiscate his domain. The Tokugawa pretended not to know when a lord died, and the requirement that everyone perform the lord being alive encouraged daimyo retainers and kin to struggle civilly over the choice of next heir. This talk will be based on one chapter from my recent book Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan (UH press 2012).

Lecture in English

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