Crossroads Research

Lecture Series: Diplomatic Overtures and Cartographic Knowledge: The Circulations of Castaways between Southeast Asia and Japan (17th–19th centuries), by Pierre-Emmanuel Bachelet

Friday, January 27 2023, 15:00 CET

Diplomatic Overtures and Cartographic Knowledge: The Circulations of Castaways between Southeast Asia and Japan (17th–19th centuries)

During the Edo period, one of the most common events in Japan’s interactions with the outside world was the arrival of castaways on Japanese shores, particularly from Korea and China. It was also common for Japanese people to be shipwrecked abroad – their return to Japan was the subject of extensive investigations and enquiries, particularly from the late 18th century onwards, when these castaways came into contact with Russia and the Western powers and their return was seen as a threat.

While these aspects have been the subject of an abundant scholarship, this is less the case for the connections between Japan and Southeast Asia, which constitute the core of our research. The study of Japanese castaways in Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asian castaways in Japan, is thus a new way of analysing these connections, while contributing to the rich discussion on the extent of Japan’s openness to the world in the Edo period.

More specifically, this presentation will show that the issue of castaways elicited a variety of responses from the Japanese authorities, ranging from routine and almost indifferent treatment to genuine concern about the potential for unrest caused by returning Japanese. The Southeast Asian authorities, for their part, took advantage of these interactions to try to revive diplomatic relations with Japan. In any case, the movements of castaways produced a deep interest in the geographical knowledge of the outside world in Japan, as evidenced by the production of maps in the aftermath of these incidents.

P-E. Bachelet is Associate Professor of History at the Lyon Institute of East Asian studies, Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon. His research interests focus on maritime circulations, cross-cultural trade and diplomatic relations in the China seas. His first book, based on his dissertation thesis, was published in March 2022 under the title Bateaux-pigeons et quartiers japonais. Une microhistoire régionale des relations entre le Japon, le Đại Việt et le Champa (fin XVIe-début XVIIIe siècle).

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