Traces the principal threads of Japan's political and cultural life from early times through the mid-twentieth century.


Japan: From Prehistory to Modern Times has a heavy emphasis upon the premodern period of Japanese history. No attempt has been made to provide the usual kind of textbook completeness. Hall’s fascination with Japanese history lies within the manner in which Japan’s political and social institutions have changed and diversified over time and how this fundamentally “Eastern” culture gave rise to a modern world power. Japan is today a modern nation in the full sense of the term. Yet its history is less familiar to us than the histories of those Western powers that it has now outstripped, or of the other countries of Asia that have gained recognition as the birthplaces of ancient civilizations or world religions. Japanese history does not force itself upon the world’s attention as does the mainstream of European history or the exotic chronicles of China or India. Its significance has become apparent only in proportion to the recognition Japan has gained as a modern state and as scholars have begun to place Japanese history within a world context.

John Whitney Hall (September 12, 1916 - October 21, 1997) was a pioneer in the field of Japanese studies, the author of of many works, and director of the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies from 1957 to 1960.