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Botsman, Daniel V. 1968–

Botsman, Daniel V. 1968–

(Dani Botsman)


Born October 22, 1968, in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Education: Australian National University, B.A.; Oxford University, M.Phil.; M.A. in history, Princeton University, M.A., Ph.D., 2001.


Office—Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Center for Government and International Studies, South Bldg., Harvard University, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02138; Department of History, Hamilton Hall, CB 3195, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Historiographical Institute at Tokyo University, research fellow; Hokkaido University, lecturer in the faculty of law; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, faculty member; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Center for Government and International Studies, associate professor of history.


Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University, 1991-93.


Saburo Okita: A Life in Economic Diplomacy, Australia-Japan Research Centre (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 1993.

Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005.


Drawing extensively on archival documents, Daniel V. Botsman originally wrote the monograph Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan as a doctoral thesis at Princeton University. The book is grounded in Botsman's early life and studies. He was born in Papua New Guinea, where, as a child, he played amongst the detritus left behind by World War II battles. He began to study Japanese in Brisbane, Australia, then went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Asian studies at the Australian National University. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he became interested in the economic and social history of Japan, interests that he pursued in earning a master's degree and Ph.D. in history at Princeton.

Botsman takes as his topic the history of the penal and criminal justice system in Japan. He focuses on two primary periods in Japanese history, the Tokugawa regime, which extended from 1603 to 1868, and the Meiji state, which assumed power in 1868 and lasted until 1912. Botsman notes that with the new regime, a major change took place in the Japanese system for punishing criminals. During the earlier period, punishment was often barbaric, consisting of crucifixions, mutilation, beheadings, parades of criminals, public floggings, and torture. Botsman notes that such a system was used to enforce the power and authority of the ruling regime, particularly of the shoguns, and although the system was often cruel, it could also be occasionally relaxed as a way for warrior-rulers to demonstrate a sense of mercy and benevolence. This system also functioned to maintain a sense of order and discipline in society, particularly in a highly stratified society where the nature of punishment was often a reflection of the social status of the criminal. The Meiji state, in contrast, reduced the number of crimes for which corporal punishment and capital punishment were imposed. It created a system of modern courts and relatively modern prisons. Botsman notes, though, that the new, more modern system allowed for the incarceration of larger numbers of people, exposing them to disease in overcrowded conditions. These more modern prisons were more in the nature of stockades and functioned as halfway houses for criminals awaiting punishment.

Botsman devotes considerable attention to the question of Western influence on the reforms that took place in the later nineteenth century. Prior to this period, Japan had been relatively isolated from the world. Its economic and social systems were closed to outsiders, and those systems reflected primarily the influence of Asian systems of thought, such as Confucianism. Beginning in the nineteenth century, though, Japan came under the influence of outsiders, particularly the United States and the countries of Western Europe. As a result of treaties signed between Japan and these Western countries, Japan was obligated to institute reforms in its penal system. Japan during this period wanted to shed what it came to see as a kind of backwardness and join other more modern, progressive nations. In this way Japan could distinguish itself from other Asian nations that it regarded as more barbaric. Thus, penal reforms in Japan were as much a result of Western efforts to impose empire on Asia as they were the result of internal pressures. In this sense, Botsman argues, modernization in Japan during the twentieth century was not entirely the result of internal changes in Japanese society.

Although Geoffrey C. Gunn, in a review for the Journal of Contemporary Asia, faulted the book slightly for lacking "forward linkages," or links between the events covered in the book and later developments in Japan, he also found the book "outstanding" by setting a "high standard of research and analysis" in the author's "broader reading of Japanese cultural and intellectual history." Writing for Pacific Affairs, reviewer Robert Eskildsen found the book "fascinating," while Anne Walthall, in the Historian, described the book as "insightful and comprehensive."



American Historical Review, April, 2006, Michael Lewis, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 450.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, November, 2005, T.S. Munson, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 551.

Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, December, 2006, Takashi Jujitani, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 552.

Historian, fall, 2006, Anne Walthall, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan.

International History Review, March, 2006, F.G. Notehelfer, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 150.

Journal of Asian Studies, August, 2005, Mark Ravina, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 745.

Journal of Contemporary Asia, October, 2005, Geoffrey C. Gunn, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, p. 545.

Pacific Affairs, winter, 2005, Robert Eskildsen, review of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan.


Harvard University Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies Web site, (May 9, 2008), brief biography of author.

Princeton University Press Web site, (May 9, 2008), brief biography of author.

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