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10 - Bandits and Peasants in Medieval Japan

from Part III - Social, Interpersonal and Collective Violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2020

Matthew S. Gordon
Affiliation:
University of Miami
Richard W. Kaeuper
Affiliation:
University of Rochester, New York
Harriet Zurndorfer
Affiliation:
Universiteit Leiden
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Summary

The judicial landscape in thirteenth century Japan was highly complex with multiple stakeholders in local conflicts. Court nobles, temples, governors, and warrior families all had vested interests in provincial affairs, yet official institutions for conflict management were often lacking or imperfect. The reach of the political centers was limited, and local officers in charge of law enforcement were rarely reliable in mitigating or de-escalating local conflicts. Local communities therefore had to develop their own conflict strategies on a continuum from evasive strategies to violent confrontations with estate owners, warriors, and neighboring communities. With the threat of a Mongol invasion in the second half of the thirteenth century, central powers sought to increase their control over the periphery. This process led to increasing resistance from locals who saw their traditional or recently acquired privileges and autonomy coming under pressure, and many of them resisted through violent means. This chapter argues that local communities developed armed organizations to manage inter-community disputes and as protection against violent, exterior threats, while such organizations were often described by central elites as banditry and predatory violence.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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