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HIST 1250 Lecture Notes - Rangaku, Joseph Banks, Natural Philosophy

Course Code
HIST 1250
Tara Abraham

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Science and Empire: Commerce and Exploration
1. Cultural Status of Science in Japan
(a) Transmission of Science and Technology
How did European scientific ideas spread to other cultures?
age of commerce and exploration
not a passive process of diffusion
spread and transmission: a “push” and “pull” phenomenon
adoption of Western knowledge for own purposes
japan had a keen interesting in western science
(b) Japan and the West
culture of isolation
little contact with westerners, in opposition to chinese and turks
ultimately, much interest in Western science
paradoxically because of the little contact
all contact with the west was isolated to a made island in nagasaki
Tokugawa shogunate: 17th to 19th C
shogun: military leader or dictator: they ruled Japan from 12th to 19th C
tried to protect themselves from christianity
Tokugawa shogunate: initially rejected Western science and culture
made room for science in a very specific way
they isolated themselves, so if any japanese had any interest they needed to
engage in it themselves
2. What was the Character of Science in Japan?
(a) Basis: Chinese Science (up to 16th C)
japanese based on chinese
different political structure - status of science was different
less confection between science and the state
(b) Exposure to Western Science (17th‐18th C)
mainly via the Protestant Dutch
contact was rigidly controlled
Key: astronomy and medicine
some doctors began being trained in dutch medicine
rangaku (Dutch studies)
japanese interpretation was focused on practical applications
surgery, or astronomy for needs for navigation
attracted to western learning in part for the exchange of one foreign practice
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