Aktuelle Veranstaltungen
25. 01. 2023

Wolfgang Schwentker: The Peculiarities of Japanese History (with some thoughts on Central Europe)

Wednesday, January 25 2023, 5 p.m.

Valentinská 91/1, 3rd floor, 110 00 Prague 1

The lecture will be streamed via Zoom as well, please contact:

Collegium Carolinum,
the German Historical Institute Warsaw,
and the Leibniz GWZO Prague
in collaboration with the Institute of History of the CAS
cordially invite you to the lecture



The Peculiarities of Japanese History (with some thoughts on Central Europe)

Japan's relationship to the outside world and its historical development is determined by its geographical position at the periphery of East Asia and the insular character of the country. The basso ostinato of Japan's history is a dichotomy between „Inside" (jap. uchi 内) and „Outside" (jap. soto 外). The presentation will take the work of the historian and cultural critic TSUDA Sôkichi (1873-1961) as a point of departure for exploring the peculiarities of Japanese history in two directions. First, it will discuss Japan's relations to its Asian neighbours and to the West, characterized by periods of "openings" and "closings". Second, it will analyse the impact of the dichotomy on the social structure, since it is the social framework that determines the thought and behaviour of the Japanese: in pre- historical times in the clans, in ancient and feudal Japan in village communities and at court, in warrior groups, temples or shrines, and in modern times in political parties, companies and bureaucratic institutions.

Furthermore, the presentation will talk about Japanese strategies of cultural self-defence and the views on Japan from outside. Both are elements that influenced the historical development in various periods. Based on my recent book ("Geschichte Japans", 2022) it finally will discuss under which conditions we see political change and cultural innovation in Japan. The thesis is that there is a relationship between the change from "openings" to "closures" (and back) on the one side and political turning points (i.e. regime change) on the other.


Wolfgang Schwentker has been since 2002 a professor of Intellectual and Cultural History at the Institute for the Comparative Study of Civilizations at Ōsaka University. He studied history, literature and philosophy at the Universities of Düsseldorf and Bonn. In 1996 he received his Dr. phil. in history at the University of Düsseldorf. His current research subjects include Japanese History (from a comparative point of view), the life and work of Max Weber, and modern social and political thought. He is the author of Geschichte Japans, München 2022.