Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

9/1/2015 - 8/31/2016

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her Worlds,1821-1862

FAIN: FA-58189-15

Amy Stanley
Northwestern University (Evanston, IL 60208-0001)

This project focuses on the remarkable life of a woman named Tsuneno to explore gender, work, and urban migration in early nineteenth-century Japan. Tsuneno ran away from her provincial hometown after her two first marriages failed. She settled in the shogun's capital of Edo, where she worked a series of odd jobs, rented a back alley tenement, married (then divorced and remarried) a masterless samurai, and ended up in the service of a famous city magistrate. This microhistory uses Tsuneno's extensive correspondence to illuminate the social history of Edo on the eve of Japan's modern revolution. It offers a new perspective on Japanese women's economic lives by examining work in the lower echelons of the burgeoning service sector, where labor was only loosely tethered to the patriarchal household. As one of the first studies to consider women's labor migration--a common early modern phenomenon--in an East Asian context, it also contributes to scholarship on global early modernity.

Media Coverage

A headstrong woman, a dazzling city and the fate of feudal Japan (Review)
Publication: Washington Post
Date: 3/13/2023
URL: (Review)
Author(s): Maura Cunningham
Publication: Wall Street Journal
Date: 3/13/2023

Associated Products

"Maidservants' Tales: Narrating Domestic and Global History, 1600-1900" (Article)
Title: "Maidservants' Tales: Narrating Domestic and Global History, 1600-1900"
Author: Amy Stanley
Abstract: Microhistory and global history are often seen as opposing strategies of historical inquiry, with irreconcilable research methods, central questions, and strategies of narration. This article combines both approaches, telling the story of a nineteenth-century Japanese maidservant both as a microhistory and as a global history. The maidservant, Tsuneno, is not an obvious protagonist for a global history. She never manufactured a product for export, conversed with a foreign person, wore imported cloth, or traveled beyond the shogun’s realm. Yet her experience of urban migration, service work, and marriage resembled those of other women across Eurasia in the years between 1600 and 1900. Situating Tsuneno’s mundane story in both local and global frames challenges the microhistorical approach by considering how questions of agency might be answered with reference to transnational and long-term trends as well as close attention to intimate contexts. It also shows how attention to overlooked historical actors might challenge the periodization and spatial imagination of global history. Maidservants’ tales do not show us a world divided between “Europe” and “Asia,” or a sudden break that occurred with the industrial revolution, but continuities across space and time.
Year: 2016
Primary URL:
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: American Historical Review Vol. 121, No. 2 (April 2016:437-460)

Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Book)
Title: Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World
Author: Amy Stanley
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Publisher website
Publisher: Scribner
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9781501188527