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Evaluating Evidence

Evaluating Evidence: A Positivist Approach to Reading Sources on Modern Japan

George Akita
Copyright Date: 2008
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqvf1
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  • Book Info
    Evaluating Evidence
    Book Description:

    Evaluating Evidence is based on the grueling lessons learned by a senior scholar during three decades of tutoring by, and collaboration with, Japanese historians. George Akita persisted in the difficult task of reading documentary sources in Japanese, most written in calligraphic style (sôsho), out of the conviction of their centrality to the historian’s craft and his commitment to a positivist methodology to research and scholarship. He argues forcefully in this volume for an inductive process in which the scholar seeks out facts on a subject and, through observation and examination of an extensive body of data, is able to discern patterns until it is possible to formulate certain propositions. In his introduction, Akita relates how and why he decided to adopt a positivist approach and explains what he means by the term as it applies to humanistic studies. He enumerates the difficulties linked with reading primary sources in Japanese by looking at a variety of unpublished and published materials and identifying a major problem in reading published primary sources: the intervention of editors and compilers. He illustrates the pitfalls of such intervention by comparing the recently published seventeen-volume diary of Prime Minister Hara Takashi (1856–1921), a photo reproduction of the diary in Hara’s own hand, and an earlier published version. Using documents related to Yamagata Aritomo (1838–1922), a figure of central importance in Japan’s post-Restoration political history, he demonstrates the use of published and transcribed primary sources to sustain, question, or strengthen some of the themes and approaches adopted by non-Japanese scholars working on modern Japanese history. He ends his inquiry with two "case studies," examining closely the methods of the highly acclaimed American historians John W. Dower and Herbert P. Bix.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6242-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    THE UNIVERSITY of Hawai‘i in the late 1940s and 1950s was a small liberal arts college of some four to five thousand students. It could even have been called a “cow college,” given its establishment as a land grant institution. Indeed, cows and pigs raised by the College of Agriculture roamed freely just beyond the fence that marked one of the boundaries with the liberal arts buildings. Some of us, however, were fortunate to have encountered teachers who could have held their own anywhere in academia. Allan F. Saunders taught government and politics. He approached his topics by the Socratic...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Japanʹs Postwar Positivists The IHKM and YAKM Projects
    (pp. 9-29)

    In the midst of the imposing edifices in Chiyoda-ku that house Japan’s bureaucratic elites stands the eight-story Shōyū Kaikan, the home of the Shōyū Kurabu. The Shōyū Kurabu had its genesis in the mid-Meiji period when a group from among all the counts and viscounts in the peerage formed the Shōyūkai to streamline and coordinate their selection process. All of those in these two ranks as well as the barons would elect those who would represent them in the first Diet session (1890).¹ The Shōyūkai members who were elected then organized a political faction in the House of Peers, the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Reading Primary Documents Letters, Ikensho, Nikki, and Memoirs—the Pitfalls
    (pp. 30-52)

    Documents, especially those written by the principals involved, are one of the basic building blocks for the historian seeking to reconstruct the past. Paulding notes correctly that these documents are not necessarily what they seem, but the very awareness of the problems they raise enhances their utility and value.

    There is no question that societies’ movers and shakers write letters, diaries, memoirs, and position papers with a self-interested eye on history. Nothing as sinister as evasion or deception may be involved, but merely the natural human impulse to be seen in the best possible light, to help tilt the historians’...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Hara Kei Nikki and Eiin Hara Kei Nikki Compared Typos and Other Problems
    (pp. 53-64)

    HARA KEIICHIRŌ followed eight guidelines in transcribing from the originalHara Kei Nikki(HKN) for the Kangensha edition, only one of which needs to be highlighted. He writes that he tried to faithfully follow the original and made changes only in the event of obvious errors.¹ For example, Keiichirō used the correctkanji(zō), where Hara had not, in writing the given name of Tokyo municipal assemblyman Morikubo Sakuzō.² Hara also habitually usedhe, as inihe(say, state), which Keiichirō changed to thehyōjungo(standard Japanese)hi, and, in this instance,ihi.³ The other guidelines refer to his attempts...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Now That We Have These Primary Sources
    (pp. 65-124)

    KENT CALDER has exhorted fellow political scientists to “resort to political archaeology,” that is, to engage in the kind of approach favored here, “a systematic search for historical origins of key institutional features.”¹ This call for more “political archeology” is seconded by Jeffrey Mass, who in a statement (adapted to this discussion) emphasized that “we cannot hope to narrow the distance between ourselves and the political leaders of the [Meiji-Taishō periods] without listening very hard to what they were saying.”² Another scholarly approach to Japanese history, however, stresses the edifice rather than the bricks and mortar, since it is believed...

  10. CHAPTER 5 John W. Dower and Herbert P. Bix
    (pp. 125-163)

    John W. Dower was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for hisEmbracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II(New York: W. W. Norton, 1999). In 1975 he wrote a one-hundred-plus-page introductory essay toOrigins of the Modern Japanese State: Selected Writings of E. H. Norman(New York: Pantheon, 1975).¹ It was praised as “brilliant,”² “eloquent,”³ and a “minor classic.”⁴ It may be said that this piece marked the beginning of his much-heralded ascent to the rarefied heights occupied by the most highly regarded, active Japan specialists.⁵ The essay is still being read and commented upon, with...

  11. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 164-168)

    PETER DUUS was also a frequent user of Kensei Shiryōshitsu in the summer of 1981, when he was doing research on what ultimately became hisThe Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895–1910(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). He said one day, “George, I would go crazy if I were doing what I see you doing,” to which I replied, “But Peter, I am going crazy!” “Crazy,” “obsessed,” or “possessed” may well be part of the reason for continuing to transcribe documents. The greater reason is that I had asonshiItō, Hirose, Sakeda, and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 169-226)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 227-232)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-256)
  15. Index
    (pp. 257-268)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-273)