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Seminar: Mikael Adolphson


Date: Wednesday 9 February 2022

Time: 15.00 – 17.00

Location: Zoom

Mikael Adolphson: Treasures of Early Medieval Japan: Coins, Ceramics, and Sulphur.

Mikael Adolphson (Cambridge University/Uppsala University): Treasures of Early Medieval Japan: Coins, Ceramics, and Sulphur.

You can join the seminar in room 334 or via Zoom.


The twelfth century was a pivotal time in Japan’s history. It witnessed intense factionalism within the court in Kyoto, several armed conflicts, Japan’s first national civil war (1180-85) and above all the rise of warriors to national prominence, culminating with the establishment of Japan’s first warrior government, the Kamakura Shogunate (1185-1333). It is hardly surprising then that warrior society has been the main focus of countless studies of this period, but this approach has also led to one-dimensional descriptions of a society that was considerably more complex than is assumed. Specifically, Japan’s medieval economic development, which from a global historical perspective can only be described as remarkable, have taken the backseat to the warrior-focused narrative that is often both teleological and ahistorical. Indeed, Japan went from a rice economy to one based on cash coins but without minting any of its own, resulting also in the emergence of new classes of merchants and artisans and the establishment of guilds. Bringing together archeological, textual, literary and religious sources to shed light on the initial import of Chinese copper coins and their impact of the medieval Japanese economy, Professor Adolphson will explore what one might call “Japan’s first economic miracle” while addressing problems that face historians of Japan when it comes to the use of sources and theories.  

Join via Zoom: