Date of Award

Spring 4-27-2023

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History and American Studies

Department Chair or Program Director

Claudine Ferrell

First Advisor

Susan Fernsebner

Major or Concentration



Dutch East India Company (VOC) merchant François Caron describes Tokugawa Japan as a rigid political hierarchy controlled by the Shogun, similar to the governments established by absolute monarchs in Europe. Caron understands and insightfully describes Tokugawa society by emphasizing perceived and real similarities between Tokugawa Japan and Early Modern Europe. He struggles to understand religious differences between these societies, but his description of Japanese religious practices still reflects how the Shogunate utilized Buddhism and anti-Christian policies to uphold their rule. Caron also depicts Tokugawa Japan as a land of plentiful resources prime for lucrative trade. He includes the writings of other VOC officials in his work, who suggest that the VOC can maximize their profits in Japan by conforming to Tokugawa social and political norms. Caron’s account supports a revisionist perspective in scholarship about Tokugawa Japan, which suggests that political and technological similarities between Tokugawa Japan and European colonial powers forced European merchants to negotiate with the Shogun and compete against each other to eke out an existence in Japanese international commerce.