Rulers, Peasants and the Use of the Written Word in Medieval Japan

Ategawa no shō 1004-1304

by Judith Fröhlich (Author)
©2007 Thesis 226 Pages


This book provides new insights into the creation and use of written texts in medieval Japan. Drawing upon lawsuits from Ategawa no shō in central Japan between the early eleventh and early fourteenth centuries, the author analyses the use of writing by various social groups – temple priests, warriors and peasants. Though these social groups had different levels of literacy and accordingly followed different communicative traditions, their use of writing had common features. In the semi-literate society of medieval Japan the dissemination and reception of written texts took place primarily through speaking and hearing. Documents of the medieval period therefore had a distinctly oral characteristic. Priests, warriors and peasants all alluded to motifs in their legal pleas that were in essence given by the oral world of tales, legends and gossip. By showing that literacy was not in conflict but interacted with orality, the author uncovers an important aspect of the use of the written word in medieval Japan.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Mündliche Überlieferung Schriftlichkeit Culture Study Attegawa no sho Japan Asian History Geschichte 1004-1304
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2007. 226 pp.

Biographical notes

Judith Fröhlich (Author)

The Author: Judith Fröhlich was born in 1973. She studied History, Japanese and History of Art at Zurich University. In 1999 she graduated with a master thesis on the social and economic history of medieval Japan. In 2004 she completed her Ph.D. thesis on which this book is based. Her current research is about national identity and the perception of the West in nineteenth-century Japan.


Title: Rulers, Peasants and the Use of the Written Word in Medieval Japan