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Global History as Urban History

A View from Edo, The Greatest City in the World

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Library and Gallery, Albin O. Kuhn
Annual Robert K. Webb Lecture

Amy Stanley, Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University

Edo (now Tokyo) was once the greatest city in the world. In 1800 – the era of Napoleon and revolution and declarations of independence – Edo boasted a population of 1.2 million. In comparison, London had a population of one million, Paris had 550,000, and New York was a tiny outpost of 60,000. Yet Edo is strangely invisible in global history. In part, this is because the city is difficult to integrate into the narratives of imperialism and trade that dominate global history scholarship. It was neither a colonial city nor a metropole, it was not a hub of foreign trade, and it was not even an ancient imperial capital. So what do we do with this strange, enormous, anomalous city? In this talk, Dr. Stanley explores the social history of early nineteenth-century Edo in the context of global history, focusing on gender, violence, and consumption. She argues that global history does look different from the perspective of Japan, and that turning our attention to social history and the urban poor illuminates how and why mundane experiences of urban life were shared across many parts of the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

A reception will follow the program.

Bio: Amy Stanley is an associate professor in the Department of History at Northwestern University, where she teaches Japanese and global history. Her publications include Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2012) and articles in The American Historical Review, The Journal of Asian Studies, and The Journal of Japanese Studies. She is currently at work on a new book, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and her Worlds, which is forthcoming from Scribner in 2020.

Sponsored by the History Department and the Dresher Center for the Humanities.
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