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THE AFTERMATH OF THE EAST ASIAN WAR OF 1592-1598.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Aftermath (THE AFTERMATH OF THE EAST ASIAN WAR OF 1592-1598.)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

Aftermath is a five year, European Research Council Starting Grant project run by ICREA professor Rebekah Clements at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The project seeks to understand the legacy of the East Asian War of 1592-1598, also known as the Imjin War and Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea. This massive conflict is not part of standard narratives about the early modern world but it was the largest conflict of world of the 16th century and was unparalleled in East Asia until the 20th century. Over a six year period, as Hideyoshi attempted to pass through Korea and conquer China, the war entangled as many as 500,000 combatants from Japan, China, and Korea, as well as Southeast Asian and European subjects. Civilian casualties were high. It was followed by a period of instability, culminating in the rise of the Manchu forces who formed the Qing dynasty in 1644. The memory of the Imjin conflict reverberates throughout East Asia today, kept alive in Korea by museums and the school curriculum, and thanks to strategic concerns that are still relevant for the modern nations of Japan, China, and Korea. Yet the daunting array of primary source languages means that a regional vision of the war and its implications remains elusive. To address this, Aftermath is a team-based project that combines Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and European sources in order to understand, not the war itself, but something which is arguably even more important: the aftermath and its implications for early modern East Asia. Our research team is pooling language skills to investigate the following three themes:

1.The movement of people and demographic change;
2.Environmental and economic impact:
3.Diffusion of technology as a result of the invasions.
A website to promote the work of the AFTERMATH project was launched on 25 September 2019. Simultaneously, the AFTERMATH team began developing the database for the Annotated Online Bibliography of research on the war in multiple languages. This database was launched on the website on 23 April 2020, in its first phase with over 350 bibliographic entries in nine languages. The study of the war has been fragmented within disciplinary boundaries of “Japanese Studies,” “Chinese Studies,” and “Korean Studies”, and has been hampered by the wide range of source languages (including, but not limited to premodern forms of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish). The purpose of this database is therefore to bring together bibliographic information on modern books, articles, and dissertations relating to the Imjin War also known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Invasions of Korea, and to make that information available to scholars in one easily searchable location. This database serves as a lasting legacy for the scholarly community, helping to overcome the fractured study of the war thus far. As of May 2020 the database contains over 400 entries in nine languages, primarily English, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. Romanization is provided for Asian titles and author names. The range of subjects covered is as broad as possible in order to reflect the wide-reaching effects of the war. Subjects include captives, ceramics, Christianity, international relations, economy, environment, Europeans, identity, literature, military history, migration, social history, and trade.

A monthly seminar series for the AFTERMATH project was launched on 23 October 2019, providing a forum for the AFTERMATH team and invited guest speakers to present their research results and receive feedback from the scholarly community. The seminar series reflects the cross-over nature of the project, with experts from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and European history backgrounds participating. Five seminar presentations were held during the reporting period, with one presentation being delayed until after the reporting period, when the switch to an online format was made due to the COVID-19 situation. The seminar series has thus adapted, and opened up to a wider field of participants by going online and this will continue in future.
Modern ideas of the nation state have shaped disciplinary boundaries and separated Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Studies. The project’s comparative approach across China, Korea, and Japan, however, is premised on the contention that despite the rupture of diplomatic relations between Japan and its neighbours after the war, the interconnection of people, environments, and technologies that had characterized East Asia throughout premodern history continued in the postwar period. The project also remedies the lack of studies of the war’s aftermath, since in so far as this has been studied, it has mainly been from the perspective of diplomatic, and occasionally, literary history. The project will broaden our understanding of the early modern world, and push back the boundaries of current discussions of war legacy by exploring the meanings of “aftermath” in the early modern East Asian context. The project, which will bring together scholars from the EU and East Asia, will make a lasting contribution to the continued regional study of the war by producing ground-breaking research monographs and journal articles using the full spectrum of linguistic sources, and by compiling the first annotated, online bibliographic tool in English of research on the war in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and European languages.
Image of project themes