Blood and Steel: Honor and Personal Violence in Early Modern Spain and Japan

Summer 2006

Marcelo Aranda : History

Mentor: Mary Elizabeth Berry, History

Personal violence was an endemic problem for Early Modern societies, since both elites and the upwardly mobile acted according to codes of honor rooted in the past. Two cultures, Early Modern Spain and Japan, handled this problem in outwardly similar manners. While governments imposed strict penalties on personal violence, martial artists in both societies created systems of combat that addressed not only the immediate physical concerns of their students, but also their spiritual and psychological needs. By analyzing and comparing 16th century Spanish and 17th century Japanese fencing manuals I will illustrate the manner in which different cultures dealt with this problem. I will also reference studies about personal violence from the fields of Japanese history and anthropology.

In explaining to my family what SURF is, I said, “It’s the academic equivalent of getting a prestigious summer internship.” I will benefit from participating in SURF in a number of ways. First, it allows me to do original undergrad research, an experience that will greatly improve both the quality of my senior thesis and my chances of entering a History grad program. Second, it allows me to do comparative historical work, something very difficult to do as a grad student. Finally, it will be a preview of what grad school will be like and I will find out if historical research is something I want to do for the rest of my life.