Christoffer Bovbjerg

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Department:
History
Term:
AY 2015-16

How should we understand Japan’s first “warrior government,” the Kamakura bakufu (1180-1333), and its position in the evolution of the Japanese state? On the heels of victory in a nationwide conflict, the emerging warrior leaders created an administration that brought new order to society. Their legal and judicial system served as a critical tool for legitimizing its leaders, as it provided security for a state no longer willing or capable of providing it.

My work emphasizes the complexities of warrior administration and its complicated relationship with the imperial state, whereas existing historiography draws sharp distinctions between warrior and aristocratic administration. I use legislative, judicial, and administrative records to show the underpinnings and effects of this new institution. Warrior authority grew gradually and conservatively responding to specific circumstances, crises, and disputes brought to their courts for resolution. This approach to governance laid the foundations for warrior administrations that lasted for nearly 700 years.