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Verbeck of Japan: Guido F. Verbeck as Pioneer Missionary, Oyatoi Gaikokujin, and "Foreign Hero"

Hommes, James Mitchell (2014) Verbeck of Japan: Guido F. Verbeck as Pioneer Missionary, Oyatoi Gaikokujin, and "Foreign Hero". Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Guido F. Verbeck has been viewed as a pioneer missionary, a key oyatoi gaikokujin (“foreign employee”) and a ‘foreign hero’ for modern Japan. This case-study focuses on one of the most prominent foreign figures in Bakumatsu-Meiji Japan, Guido F. Verbeck. Arriving in Nagasaki in 1859 when the ports opened, he was the only Protestant missionary in western Japan throughout the 1860s, where he taught or interacted with some of the future leaders of Meiji Japan. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, he served as the superintendent of the Daigaku Nankō, the government school of Western studies in Tokyo and as a translator and special advisor to the highest organs of the government. For the last two decades of his life, he returned to full-time missionary work, supporting Japanese Christians through translation, teaching and evangelism. Verbeck was decorated by the Meiji Emperor in 1877, granted special Japanese passports in 1891, and buried in Japan in 1898 with great honors. Arguably more respected than any other missionary or foreigner in Bakumatsu-Meiji Japan, he was a revered teacher and trusted advisor, as well as one of the most gifted foreign speakers of Japanese.

In this dissertation, I analyze the literature and scholarship on Verbeck and examine how he has been perceived in various time periods. Though there are few biographies on Verbeck, the literature pertaining to Verbeck is much larger. The method I propose for considering why certain figures like Verbeck are attractive, is to view their lives as “enacted narratives”—that is, as figures that embody certain larger narratives for their societies. In the literature on Verbeck, for both Western and Japanese observers, he has enacted the narratives of the modern missionary movement, global modernization, and Japanese nationalism. I also argue that studying Verbeck could revive the lack of interest in Japan in recent literature on the history of missions, enrich the scholarship on intercultural exchanges and their role in modernization, and broaden the discussion of nationalism in Japan and elsewhere to include categories like “foreign heroes.”


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hommes, James Mitchelljmh147@pitt.eduJMH147
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRawski, Evelynesrx@pitt.eduESRX
Committee MemberSmethurst, Richardrsmet@pitt.eduRSMET
Committee MemberManning, Patrickpmanning@pitt.eduPMANNING
Committee MemberChilson, Clarkchilson@pitt.eduCHILSON
Date: 18 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 July 2014
Approval Date: 18 September 2014
Submission Date: 31 July 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 506
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Guido Verbeck, Protestant missionary, Bakumatsu, Meiji, Japan, oyatoi gaikokujin, nationalism, foreign hero, living epistle, William Elliot Griffis,
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2014 20:48
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:22


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