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Samurai Archives Japanese History Podcast


Follow your hosts on a trek into Japanese history, from ancient Japan to the end of the Samurai and all points in between - culture, warfare, literature, and interviews. Simply stated, our mission is to bridge the gap between the popular and the academic, and to bring the world of academic Japanese history accessible to a wider audience through discussion of topics and authors in an informative but informal manner. We encourage those listeners who want to know more to seek out works by the historians and authors we reference and interview, and to contribute to the conversation. Conversely, we hope scholars can view us as a way to reach a broader, non-specialist audience and raise the bar for general understandings of Japanese history. The Official Podcast of the Samurai Archives Japanese History page.

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Mar 19, 2014

Probably more appropriately titled "What do Chris and Forest philosophize about what can really be known about history", here is our 4th bonus episode of what was originally meant to be a stand-alone podcast on the Samurai Archives podcast network.  In this heavily opinionated episode, things get touchy as Chris and Forest get in a philosophical discussion about what can really be known about history. As always with our bonus episodes, the opinions expressed are solely those of Chris and Forest, and do not in any way reflect the opinions of any other hosts or guest to this point or going forward.

Japanese history can be particularly questionable in the situations where the only sources available are select pieces of contemporary correspondences and writings compiled 100 years or more after the events they describe, and often the only sources available are war tales, fictionalizations, and hagiography. Your hosts look at various events in Japanese history, including the 4th battle of Kawanakajima, the death of Nobunaga, and the questionable existence of Yamamoto Kansuke to discuss what we know, what we think we know, and what we really don't know about Japanese history, and ask, "What can anyone really know about history?"  

Mentioned in this podcast:

The Sengoku Field Manual (Nate's Blog)

Perrin, Noel, Giving Up the Gun, Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 D. R. Godine; First Edition edition 1979

Yoshikawa, Eiji Taiko

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over seven years ago

I'm working on a history degree, and this podcast brings up some interesting points, many of which I've thought about myself, and some that I haven't really considered. It should be said that as a historian, we are given the tools to try to cut through the contemporary angles, misinformation (intentional or otherwise) and subjective writings of people on-the-scene to get to the heart of truth. That being said, often it does comes down to how effectively one can, as a historian, argue that "Event X" happened in a particular way, and with documents that, although they may not prove "Event X" conclusively, could be considered to support one's opinion about "Event X" as a historian to the extent that other historians agree with you. So yes, often we really don't know what happened, but the job of the historian, in my view, is to act as an interpreter of the documents, because often they can't be trusted at face value - historians don't necessarily "report the facts" because, as you've mentioned, they are more often than not up for debate. Keep up the interesting work!