By Dr Robert Morton
Published by Renaissance Books
In this talk, Dr Robert Morton will present a profile (with illustrations) of A.B. Mitford as a young British diplomat and writer living in Japan during the turbulent years of 1866 to 1870. With his aristocratic bearing, charm, looks, perfect manners and remarkable courage, Mitford fitted into Japan perfectly.
On the other hand, he was lucky to survive his posting: he almost drowned, could have burned to death, was shot at, and was nearly cut down by samurai swords, but he never flinched. Remarkably, Mitford always managed to be in the right place at the right time, standing face-to-face with the fifteen-year-old Emperor Meiji when almost everybody else, including the Shogun, could only talk to him from behind a screen.
He became friendly with the last Shogun and witnessed a hara-kiri, his atmospheric account of which is a classic and will be read at the launch. Above all, Morton will argue, Mitford played a part (albeit a minor one) in one of the great turning points of world history: the 1868 revolution which saw the demise of feudal Japan led by the Shoguns and the birth of a modern nation ruled over by the Emperor and his ministers.
Mitford was also a great interpreter of Japan to the West. Like his famous granddaughters, the ‘Mitford sisters’, he was a gifted and successful author, and on his return to Britain fuelled the Japan boom there by bringing alive a country which was such a mystery, yet such a source of fascination.
A.B. Mitford and the Birth of Japan as a Modern State will be on sale for the special price of £20 (RRP £30) at this event.
About the contributors
Dr Robert Morton
Dr Robert Morton has a PhD from the University of Queensland in creative writing, an MA in linguistics from the University of York and a BA in history from the University of Sussex. He has been a professor at Chuo University in Tokyo since 2000. He edited and annotated the 1861-1869 diaries of Mitford’s colleague, Ernest Satow, with Ian Ruxton (published by Eureka in 2013). He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, the oldest academic journal in Japan. He is currently working on a biography of Mitford’s boss in Japan, Sir Harry Parkes.