THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

4 posts from January 2019

28 January 2019

Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection: the publication of Weatherbee’s 'Inventory'

The Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project is currently digitising 76 manuscripts now held in the British Library which originate from the palace library of Yogyakarta. The largest portion, comprising 46 manuscripts, derive from the collections of Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), a Scottish army officer in the British East India Company who later became the first Surveyor General of India.  From 1811 to 1813 Mackenzie served in the British administration of Java under Thomas Stamford Raffles, and was Chief Engineer of the British army during the attack on Yogyakarta in June 1812. After the assault on the kraton (palace) of Yogyakarta, the manuscripts taken from the royal library were shared out between Raffles, John Crawfurd and Mackenzie. Following Mackenzie’s death in Calcutta in 1821, his Javanese manuscripts, together with his vast collections relating to the history, languages and cultures of south India, were sent to the India Office Library in London, and now form part of the British Library collections.

MSS.Jav.24  ff. 92v-93r
Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, copied in Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 92v-93r  noc

The name of Donald E. Weatherbee, from the University of South Carolina, will be familiar to scholars of Javanese from the many descriptions of Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library which are credited to ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ in the catalogue of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain published in 1977 by M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve. In the bibliography, this important source by Weatherbee is identified as ‘An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS’ (Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1977: 201). But ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ never forthcame, although Donald Weatherbee did shortly thereafter publish an article in the Cornell journal Indonesia, on ‘Raffles’ sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie Collections’ (Weatherbee 1978).

A photocopy of Weatherbee’s original 1972 typescript of the ‘Inventory’ is however held in the British Library as MSS Photo Eur 107.  Although many portions of Weatherbee's descriptions of the Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection are reproduced verbatim in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), the ‘Inventory’ often contains further information, notably Mackenzie’s own descriptions of the title and contents, annotated on the volumes themselves, as well as comments on styles of handwriting and bindings.  Thus, despite the partial duplication with information already published in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), I felt it would still be of value to make available the original text of the ‘Inventory’, and in November 2018 I contacted Professor Weatherbee to request his permission to reproduce it in the SEALG Newletter. Permission was kindly granted, and so the ‘Inventory’ has just been published in  the special issue of the SEALG Newletter for 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Asia Library Group, which is freely accessible online via the link. The only editorial changes made to the ‘Inventory’ are the addition to each manuscript description of the current British Library shelfmark in bold square brackets.

In the introduction of the ‘Inventory’, Weatherbee explains the formation and ordering of the Mackenzie Collection. According to Mackenzie’s own account, in 1813 his collection consisted of 171 ‘sections rather than volumes’ of manuscripts in the Javanese language, and on his return to Calcutta, many of the smaller works were bound together in single volumes. Following Mackenzie’s death in 1821, an inventory was compiled of his collections from Java, listing two groups of manuscripts: (A) 33 ‘Malay’ books, namely Javanese manuscripts written in pégon (Arabic) script, and (B) 67 ‘Javanese’ books, in Javanese script. Together with 94 manuscript volumes in Dutch and English containing many translations of the Javanese texts, and 19 printed Dutch works, these were all shipped to the East India Company Library in London.  Weatherbee also documents how the IOL numbers – source of many of the present-day British Library ‘MSS Jav’ shelfmarks – derive from the randomly-assigned numbering system made by Keyzer in 1853.

MSS.Jav.83  ff.1v-2r
A volume of Shaṭṭārīya tracts, Yogyakarta, from the 'A' group of 'Malay' books (i.e. Javanese works in Arabic script) in Mackenzie's collection. British Library, MSS Jav 83, ff. 1v-2r  noc

In terms of the collection profile, Weatherbee notes that the Mackenzie collection seems to have a higher proportion of older manuscripts than the Raffles or Crawfurd collections, and includes some literary texts – including the Islamic romances Jati Kusuma, dated 1766 (MSS Jav 27), Asmara Supi, 1769 (MSS Jav 26) and Ahmad-Muhammad, possibly 1785 (MSS Jav 35), all from the Yogyakarta kraton library – not represented in the Raffles and Crawfurd collections. The Mackenzie collection is especially strong in the wayang genre, ‘pakěms and lakons from the wayang purwa and wayang gěḍog traditions forming the contents of at least 48 “sections” scattered through 20 bound volumes’, all most probably dating from the last quarter of the 18th century.

MSS Jav 27  f.6v
Opening lines of Jati Kusuma, dated 1766. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 6v   noc

Manuscripts from the palace library of Yogyakarta probably account for half of Mackenzie's collection; in his own words, ‘others were purchased and collected on the tour through that island: some were presented by Dutch colonists and by regents, and others are transcripts by Javanese writers employed by Colonel Mackenzie to copy them from the originals in the hands of the regents and with their permission’ (Weatherbee 2018: 82). On a tour of Central and East Java he received manuscripts from the regents of Grěsik (MSS Jav 12) and Lasěm (MSS Jav 29), and in Madura from Panembahan Nata Kusuma of Suměněp.  In Semarang in July 1812, MSS Jav 17, containing two texts, Panji (Angrèni) and Angling Darma, was copied from an original belonging to the Adipati of Kudus, and it was in Semarang that Mackenzie met Kyahi Adipati Sura Adimanggala, who also presented him with manuscripts.

MSS.Jav.17  ff.154v-155r
Angling Darma, copied in Semarang, 1812, from an original manuscript belonging to the Adipati of Kudus. British Library, MSS Jav 17, ff. 154v-155r   noc

Two of the most beautiful manuscripts in Mackenzie’s collection were received from Mackenzie’s colleague on the land commission, F. J. Rothenbühler, in 1812. Serat Sela Rasa (MSS Jav 28), dated 1804, and Serat Panji Jaya Kusuma (MSS Jav 68), dated 1805, were both said to have originally belonged to a Madam Schaber[?] of Surabaya. Both are filled with exceptonally fine illustrations in the wayang style.

Mss_jav_28_f138v-139r
Serat Sela Rasa, 1804. British Library, MSS Jav 28, ff. 138v-139r   noc

Weatherbee notes three major types of binding in the collection. ‘The most common, that which can be called Mackenzie’s binding, is like that of B-10 [MSS Jav 36] in which a pencilled note on the flyleaf states: "Bound by Mr. Ferris January 1815"; thus in Calcutta.’ Paul Ferris (1768-1823) was a well-known printer who had been established in Calcutta from at least 1793. These ‘Ferris’ bindings have three-quarters brown leather bindings with blue-brown marbled paper boards; over the intervening years a certain number have been rebound (including MSS Jav 36) or refurbished, but many are still intact.

MSS Jav 36A f.2r
Binding note at the beginning of Babad Mataram. British Library, MSS Jav 36, vol. 1, f. 2r  noc

MSS Jav 41  front cover   MSS Jav 41 spine
Typical binding by Paul Ferris of Calcutta, ca. 1815, found on many Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection, including this collection of Primbon. British Library, MSS Jav 41, front cover  noc

The second type is a ‘tooled leather binding’, some examples of which ‘can be definitely established as coming from Jogjakarta’.  These are characteristically dark brown, with multiple stamped frames, stamped corner pieces and a central medallion.

Mss_jav_46_fblefr
Javanese brown leather binding from Yogyakarta, with six concentric stamped decorated frames, four corner pieces, and a central mediallion, on the back cover of Arjuna Sasrabahu, 1800. British Library, MSS Jav 46, front cover  noc

The third type of binding identified by Weatherbee is ‘that on the texts from the hand of Sura Adimanggala and probably is a Samarang binding.’ Weatherbee inspected the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library in 1971-1972; but when I rechecked the Semarang manuscripts last week, I found that all these volumes were rebound in 1988. While current ‘good practice’ involves preserving original bindings, even if it is necessary to store them separately, unfortunately no trace remains of the original Semarang bindings in the Mackenzie collection.

Mackenzie
Portrait of Colin Mackenzie, accompanied by three of his Indian assistants, painted by Thomas Hickey in 1816. British Library, Foster 13  noc

References:
Blake, David. M.  “Colin Mackenzie: collector extraordinary”. British Library Journal, 1991, pp.128-150.
M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve. Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'Raffles' sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie collections.'  Indonesia, 1987, no. 26, pp. 63-94.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS.' SEALG Newsletter, 2018, pp. 80-111.

Blog posts on Mackenzie:
Sushma Jansari and Malini Roy, 22 August 2017, Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinaire
Ursula Sims-Williams, 29 August 2017, A Hindu munshi’s ‘Chain of Yogis’: a Persian manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

 

23 January 2019

Researching the Asian and African Collections at the British Library

The Asian and African department at the British Library began 2019 with one of the most important annual events in our calendar: a training day for students beginning their doctoral dissertations. Approximately fifty students from across the UK were introduced to the collections and the best ways to research them.

It was a ‘really fantastic’ experience, according to one participant, who explained that ‘the collections of the BL can be wonderful but overwhelming so it was incredibly helpful being introduced to what there is and how to use them’.

Items on display at the ‘Meet the Curators session’
Items on display at the ‘Meet the Curators session’

So, what were the top tips from the day? Where should researchers begin when confronted with the enormous collections at the British Library? If you haven’t used our collections yet – or if you have, but aren’t too sure how it all works – then this blog will get you started.


Where to start

The first place to look is our subject hub pages. (You can also get there from the front page of our website by going to the ‘Catalogues and Collections’ menu, then selecting ‘Overview of the Collections’.)

These pages give you a quick overview of what’s in the BL’s collections, how you can access it, and what you can get elsewhere. It’s an essential place to start, so that you know the sort of things you can search for in our catalogues and what we’re likely to have (as well as what we don’t have).
Subject hub image
Relevant subject hubs for Asian and African Studies via https://www.bl.uk/subjects


Understanding our collections

The British Library’s collections are huge. They are:

  • from all over the world
  • in all major world languages, and many others
  • in all disciplines, and
  • historical and contemporary.

We hold material in a very wide range of formats. If, so far, you’ve only thought about using books and manuscripts or archives, it could be worth asking how other items (perhaps sound recordings, or maps) could bring new dimensions to your research.

Collection formats
Different collection formats in the British Library


Searching the collections

There are two main catalogues:

Explore the British Library, for (mainly) published material:

  • Books and serials
  • Newspapers
  • Maps
  • Audio-visual material
  • Doctoral theses
  • E-resources
  • Archived websites
  • Printed music

Explore Archives and Manuscripts, for (mainly) unpublished material:

  • Archives
  • Manuscripts
  • Visual collections

Both catalogues indicate hard-copy and digital material.

Additional catalogues are also available via our website, and these may give more detail on particular collections. For example, the Sound and Moving Image catalogue is recommended for audio-visual collections.

Hebrew and Christian Orient curator Ilana Tahan
Hebrew and Christian Orient curator Ilana Tahan showing some BL collection items at the doctoral training day


Using the collections: in the Reading Rooms

For physical/hard-copy items, you’ll need to come into our Reading Rooms (having first obtained a Reader Pass). Our full collections are available for research at our main building in St Pancras, London. You can also see many items (but not everything) in our Reading Room at Boston Spa, Wetherby, Yorkshire.

For licensing reasons, some electronic material is only available on-site in our Reading Rooms. The most important thing to be aware of in this respect is our collection of subscription e-resources. These are electronic packages which the British Library buys and/or subscribes to. They include:

  • bibliographies and other reference tools
  • journals and e-books, and
  • collections of primary sources.

University libraries also offer these packages, but we have many things which individual libraries may not hold, so it’s always worth checking. The best way to find out what we have is to go to our electronic resources page.

Remote access to a few of these resources is available to Reader Pass holders, and may increase in future. Where this service is offered, it’s indicated on the electronic resources page.

Sample search for electronic resources on Japan
Sample search for electronic resources on Japan

The British Library is given one free copy of every book published or distributed in the UK. This is called legal deposit, and these days about half of this material come to us as e-books. These electronic publications are also only available in the Reading Rooms. These can be identified through Explore the British Library and read on the Reading Room computers.


Using the collections: online

We are digitising more and more of our collections, which means that some of the material you’ll find in our catalogues is available free online.

Manuscripts from our collections are available through the Digitised Manuscripts portal, which includes (but is not limited to) Ethiopic, Hebrew, Malay, Persian and Thai manuscripts. See the Asian and African Studies blog for more on these digitised manuscripts.

  • The Endangered Archives Programme offers large collections of archives and manuscripts from many African and Asian countries online. (The originals remain in the country of origin.)

Doctoral theses (dissertations) from most UK universities can be downloaded or requested via our EThOS service. In many cases, it’s free.

  • The Qatar Digital Library has digitised many India Office Records and Arabic manuscripts held by the British Library. These are of particular relevance to the history of the Middle East, but also relate to East Africa and the Horn, as well as other regions.

Many older books in our collections have been digitised and are available through Explore the British Library. When you find records for these items, you can click through to the full text, which is also available in Google Books.

Catalogue record and digitised full text of a work by the Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop on the Niger
Catalogue record and digitised full text of a work by the Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop on the Niger

For more information on what’s available online, see our Digital Collections page as well as the subject hub pages for your area.

And finally…talk to us!

We know that the BL is complicated and staff in Asian and African Collections are happy to point you in the right direction. You can reach us online, or by talking to the staff on the enquiry desk in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Enquiries are handled by a specialist reference team, and referred to curators if necessary.

And don’t forget our blog, a mine of information on our collections.

Discussions at the doctoral training day
Discussions at the doctoral training day


Marion Wallace, Lead Curator, Africa
https://blogs.bl.uk/.a/6a00d8341c464853ef022ad37726d4200c-pi

17 January 2019

The Other March of the Penguins: A Flightless Mascot for Dissent in Turkey

In advance of Penguin Awareness Day on Sunday January 20, we tell this story of how a bumbling and beloved resident of the globe’s southern shores became a symbol of dissent and defiance for a generation of Turkish citizens.

Çapulcu Penguen, or Looter Penguin, is the cuddly mascot of Penguen magazine dressed as a masked demonstrator from the Gezi Park protests
Çapulcu Penguen, or Looter Penguin, is the cuddly mascot of Penguen magazine dressed as a masked demonstrator from the Gezi Park protests. At the start of the demonstrations, then-Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to the protestors as çapulcular - looters or marauders - as a way to discredit their movement. Cover of a Çapulcu Penguen notebook, Istanbul: Penguen, [2015?]

On 28 May 2013, a group of environmentalists occupied Gezi Park in Taksim Square, Istanbul. They were protesting the government’s decision to remove one of central Istanbul’s last green spaces in order to make way for a new shopping centre and mosque. When armed police were sent in to remove the protestors for a second time on May 31, the demonstrations ballooned, with 100 000 people marching down İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s most prominent shopping street. The momentum of anti-government activism gathered quickly, and soon strikes, occupations, and marches occurred across the country. All manner of calls were made, from the demands of anti-capitalist Muslims and religious minorities, to the concerns of Armenians, Kurds and LGBT people about the abrogation of their rights.

Cumhuriyet Anıtı (Republic Memorial) in Taksim Square
Cumhuriyet Anıtı (Republic Memorial) in Taksim Square covered with flags and protest banners during the protests in June 2013. © Michael James Erdman

A crowd gathers to listen to speakers at the Gezi Park occupation, June 2013.
A crowd gathers to listen to speakers at the Gezi Park occupation, June 2013. © Michael James Erdman

On June 2, while foreign media were reporting on the extent of the unrest, Turkish media remained remarkably quiet . CNNTürk, taking its cue from government media outlets, broadcast a documentary about penguins rather than coverage of the protests crippling the country’s economic and political centres. Turks, who have a long, vaunted tradition of political satire , did not waste this opportunity, and soon real and virtual spaces were filled with mocking memes referencing penguins and the government’s refusal to engage with its citizens. Penguins are not native to Turkey; these images were either taken from photographs floating about the Internet or, in the vein of another longstanding Turkish tradition, appeared in cartoon form. Indeed, such 2D animated activists featured prominently in two publications springing from the same spirit of political engagement that fed the Gezi Park Protests which can be found in the British Library’s Turkish collections.

The logo of the publishing group Peng!, resposible for publishing Penguen magazine the title of the Penguen magazine series
The logo of the publishing group Peng!, resposible for publishing Penguen magazine and the title of the Penguen magazine series, featuring the a determined cartoon penguin with his hang glider. Penguen 2014 Karikatür Yıllığı, Istanbul: Peng!, 2014 (BL YP.2018.b.538)

Penguen 2014 Karikatür Yıllığı, our first example, is a compendium of the caricatures in the satirical magazine Penguen published in the year 2014. The periodical first appeared in 2002, and soon became the most widely sold weekly magazine in Turkey. Its mascot, a chubby penguin notable for his predilection for hang gliders (and flying) was drawn by the cartoonist Selçuk Erdem. The magazine quickly made a name for itself as being fearless in its biting satire. It was promptly sued in 2005 by then Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdoğan because of a cartoon depicting him as a cat. The magazine was acquitted, but continued to face angry responses for its oppositional, pro-secularist stances; its offices were even firebombed in 2012. It was almost serendipitous, then, that penguins should be coopted as a symbol of media acquiescence to and complicity with government repression in June 2013, allowing Penguen to highlight that these cuddly lovers of fish and snowy frolics also have a subversive and revolutionary side.

Cover of the Penguen 2014 Karikatür Yıllığı
Cover of the Penguen 2014 Karikatür Yıllığı featuring a cartoon criticising official practices of charity and social assistance. Penguen 2014 Karikatür Yıllığı, Istanbul: Peng!, 2014 (BL YP.2018.b.538)

In 2017, Penguen’s owners announced that they would be closing up shop with only a month’s notice. They cited both a decline in magazine readership in Turkey and increased government repression. In their unsigned farewell letter, the editors of Penguen thanked their readers, caricaturists, authors, journalists, and even politicians, “who were guests on our covers and our Agenda pages.” They also speculated that “perhaps one day we will encounter once more a freer Press. If anything remains that can be called the Press…” Over the years, the magazine provided a space for amateur cartoonists to submit their own drawings and rise to prominence. In 2007, six of its cartoonists started up the satirical magazine Uykusuz [Insomniac], which continues Penguen’s mission, and can also be found in the British Library’s collections.

The cover of Raşel Meseri's Pen Parkta (Pen at the Park)
The cover of Raşel Meseri's Pen Parkta (Pen at the Park), showing Pen the Penguin erupting from his televisual prison. Meser, Raşel, Pen Parkta, Istanbul: Habitus Minör, 2015 (BL YP.2017.a.2606)

The second penguin-themed publication in our discussion is Raşel Meseri’s Pen Parkta [Pen at the Park, a graphic novel in Turkish, Armenian and Kurmanji Kurdish illustrated by Suzanne Karssenberg. The story follows Pen, a penguin like those featured in the documentary aired on CNNTürk, as he erupts from a TV screen in Istanbul and tours the city. He heads to Gezi Park, eager to liberate his fellow penguins from their televised prisons, and meets up with other furry and feathered protestors along the way, exploring the causes of the demonstrators’ anger, and their hopes for change. The choice of languages is far from random. They represent the communities that came together in Gezi Park to make their voices heard; three tongues that, despite official narratives, have each added their own notes to Istanbul’s harmony. Pen Park’ta uses a simple narrative with endearing and engaging imagery to tell the story of the object’s transformation into subject; of the unwitting liar who becomes a warrior of truth.

A happy ending for Pen's beleaguered fellow penguins, as the crowds at Gezi Park come to assist in their liberation
A happy ending for Pen's beleaguered fellow penguins, as the crowds at Gezi Park come to assist in their liberation. Meser, Raşel, Pen Parkta, Istanbul: Habitus Minör, 2015 (BL YP.2017.a.2606)

Your average penguin might not have a fist to raise in defiance, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t oppose the powers that be – at least not in Turkey. Indeed, in 2013, this flightless bird, so often characterised as docile, defenseless, and dedicated, became a symbol of resistance and empowerment. It was, perhaps, an apt metaphor for sections of Turkish society in the age of Erdoğan: those who shed their cloaks of passivity to engage in their own March of the Penguins.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections
https://blogs.bl.uk/.a/6a00d8341c464853ef022ad37726d4200c-pi

07 January 2019

History from Between: Global Circulations of the Past in East Asia and Europe

The East Asian Uses of the European Past  project, funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area, in collaboration with the British Library, is proud to announce a one-day conference on 1 April 2019 to discuss the creation of historical knowledge between East Asia and Europe from 1600-1950.

In two thematic panels and two keynote talks, we will explore how ideas about the past circulated and were repurposed within East Asian networks of exchange. Some of the questions we will consider include: how did East Asian actors use their understanding of European expansion to burnish their own colonial aspirations? What does it mean to say the Chinese had a ‘Middle Ages’—originally a way of talking about the history of and for Europeans? How might the maritime narratives of East Asians challenge how the past of cultural others is viewed?

The event will run from 10am-5pm in the British Library Knowledge Centre, with a smaller reception from 5pm-7.30pm. You can register for the day event (10am -5pm) at our  Eventbrite page. There are also a smaller number of tickets available to our evening keynote and drinks reception from 5pm-7.30pm. You can register for this through our separate Eventbrite page.

An illustrated map of Nagasaki’
Nagasaki ezu ‘An illustrated map of Nagasaki’. Printed c.1680 (British Library Or.75.g.25)   noc

The first panel, Oceans, Islands, and Imperial Expansion in East Asia, will explore how maritime expansion of the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was understood by Chinese and Japanese actors.

Professor Leigh Jenco of the LSE will examine the earliest first-hand account of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, written by the seventeenth-century military advisor Chen Di. In contrast to both European and Chinese contemporaries, Chen showed how the lives of these people might be understood on their own terms rather than in contrast to an established yardstick of civilization.

Professor Martin Dusinberre of the University of Zurich considers the late-nineteenth century intellectual dialogue between the Cambridge professor J.R. Seeley and his young Japanese student Inagaki Manjirō (1861-1908). The result of this encounter was Inagaki’s articulation of a future ‘Pacific Age’ of Japanese expansion, modelled on the past expansion of the British Empire. Finally, Dr Birgit Tremml-Werner, also of the University of Zurich, examines how the late-nineteenth century Japanese translator and historian Murakami Naojirō used European sources to reconsider Japan’s history of maritime engagement in Southeast Asia as a model for its future expansion.

Jesuit-designed Chinese terrestrial globe, early 17th century (British Library Maps G.35)
Jesuit-designed Chinese terrestrial globe, early 17th century (British Library Maps G.35)
 noc

Our first keynote speaker, Timothy Brook, of the University of British Columbia, will discuss Picturing the World: Chinese Uses of European Cartography. Sailing the oceans in the sixteenth century obliged Europeans to come up with new models to visualize the world. As these models reached China toward the end of the century, Chinese cartographers reacted not by abandoning their model of the world, but by importing features of European maps and adjusting their image of the world accordingly. The impact is not always obvious, and the results can be surprising, as we watch both cultures make their way along separate paths toward seeing the world in common.

Our second panel on Entangled Histories will explore how European ideas about the past were repurposed by East Asian actors to understand or reinterpret their own histories. Dr David Mervart of the University of Madrid will discuss how Japanese translations from the Dutch work History of Japan by Engelbert Kaempfer shaped understandings of Japan’s time as a ‘closed country,’ as well as of the merits and demerits of opening the country to outside trade.

Professor Joachim Kurtz of the University of Heidelberg reviews attempts by twentieth-century Chinese historians to use the concept of the “middle ages,” derived from European history, as a meaningful way of partitioning Chinese history.

Finally, Dr Lorenzo Andolfatto of the University of Heidelberg will examine historical conditions which give rise to utopian thinking, through a comparison of the sixteenth-century England of Thomas More and the late nineteenth-century China of the novelist Wu Jianren. He suggests that a fundamental rethinking of the world and England and China’s place in it helped to stimulate both authors’ works.

The day will close with a smaller keynote from Professor Megan Thomas of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Thomas will explore European Pasts in the Margins of Filipino History Making. In the late nineteenth century, when the Philippines was subject to Spanish sovereignty, young Filipino intellectuals imagining their country’s future turned to history. In writings now part of the British Library’s collections, these young men treated what they called the “pre-history” of the Philippine islands as well as the history of Spanish occupation, seeking to glean from the past what could illuminate the present and future.

Their subject was the Philippines, yet in the margins of their accounts were sometimes references to European history—not only the history of Spanish presence in the Philippine islands, but also references to the folklore, customary law, and political history of Europe. They did not look to Europe’s past for models, however; instead they thought that comparing elements of Europe’s past with the Philippines showed dynamic possibilities in the Philippine past, present, and future.

The one-day conference History from Between: Global Circulations of the Past in East Asia and Europe will run from 10am-5pm on 1 April 2019 at the British Library Knowledge Centre. For more information about the research underpinning this conference you can listen to our East Asian Uses of the European Past podcast series here.

Jon Chappell, London School of Economics

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