MEMS Lecture: Rethinking Warfare in an Age Said to be Defined by It: Izumi Japan in the Early 16th Century
Japan's "Warring States" period (1467-1568) is usually portrayed as the great age of the samurai. Survey histories speak of a fragmented state divided among two hundred or more feudal lords continually contesting one another in battle, a situation that ended only with the emergence of the "three unifiers" late in the sixteenth century. In this presentation, Lee Butler will consider the place of warfare and its participants in one region, the Province of Izumi, early in the sixteenth century. Drawing on the remarkable diary of Kujo Masamoto--a high courtier who spent four years in the countryside and wrote in detail about life there--Butler will show that warfare was not all-defining of the age, that real samurai were few in number in Izumi, and that peasants were as likely as local landlords and strongmen (often defined simplistically as "warriors") to be skilled fighters.