Exploring Japanese History

A country’s past reveals a lot about its present and future. This series delves into Japanese historical events and developments along the path to now.

Siebold: A German Naturalist in Nineteenth-Century Nagasaki

One of the most beloved figures in the history of nineteenth-century Japan was not a Japanese at all but a German: the Bavarian-born doctor and biologist Philipp Franz von Siebold. During his years as a doctor at the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki, Siebold built up a huge collection of Japanese animals, plants, artworks, and maps. These allowed him to write some of the most influential early modern works on Japan—and led to his deportation from Japan on suspicion of spying.

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