Aftermath is a five year, European Research Council Starting Grant project (2018-2023) run by Prof. Rebekah Clements (ICREA, Autonomous University of Barcelona). The project is a large scale attempt to understand the legacy of the East Asian War of 1592-1598, also known as the Imjin War and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Invasions of Korea. This conflict involved over 500,000 combatants from Japan, China, and Korea; up to 100,000 Korean civilians were removed to Japan. It was the largest conflict of the world of the sixteenth century and involved the largest successful overseas landings by that date. Unsurprisingly for a conflict of this size, the war caused momentous demographic upheaval and widespread destruction, but also had long-lasting cultural impact as a result of the removal to Japan of Korean technology and skilled labourers.
The conflict and its aftermath bear striking parallels to events in East Asia during World War II, and memories of the 16th-century war remain resonant in the region. We know something of the political and diplomatic fallout of the war, but what were the implications for the social, economic, and cultural contours of early-modern East Asia? What can this conflict tell us about the war’s “aftermath” across historical periods and about such periodization itself? There is little Western scholarship on the war and few studies in any language that cross linguistic, disciplinary, and national boundaries to achieve a regional perspective, which reflects the interconnected history of East Asia. The focus of this project will be on the period up to the middle of the 17th century, but not precluding ongoing effects. The team, with expertise covering Japan, Korea, and China, will investigate three themes: the movement of people and demographic change, the impact on the natural environment, and technological diffusion. The project will be the first large-scale investigation to use Japanese, Korean, and Chinese sources to understand the war’s aftermath. It will broaden understandings of the early-modern world, and push the boundaries of war legacy studies by exploring the meanings of “aftermath” in the East Asian context.
Header image credit: James Lewis.