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The Greatest Pirate in Japan

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Published on Mar 4, 2014

Lecture Date: February 20, 2014
Speaker: Peter Shapinsky, Associate Professor, History, University of Illinois - Springfield

This presentation traces the career of Noshima Murakami Takeyoshi (1533-1604), a seafarer whom Jesuit visitors dubbed the "Greatest Pirate in Japan." I integrate Japanese and foreign representations of Japanese pirates in order to show how seafarers like Takeyoshi employed reputations, performances of lordship, and protection businesses so as to inspire authorities and travelers to recognize them as legitimate rulers over sprawling, sea-based domains. I show how an exploration of pirates can reveal maritime dimensions of the local autonomy that was a hallmark of Japan's late medieval age, contest the land-centered biases in both historical sources and modern histories, and provide a transnational perspective on sixteenth-century Japan.

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