Course of History

Professor TANAKA Toshiyuki (European History)

[Theme] A Journey to Medieval Europe

My specialty is the medieval history of Switzerland and Germany. I enjoy studying the nature of society and the manner in which people lived in medieval cities and farming villages, as well as the formation of nations. The research of medieval Western history is growing more popular in Japan and Europe. Different themes of varying sizes find themselves upon the examination table to be the subject repeated inquiry, with new findings emerging one after the other. One thing that must be done in such a situation is to find new, original ways of approaching recognitions of the current situation for one's own research that follows the trends of ongoing research, and root out the significance of their findings or problems they contain. This is easier said than done, however, as there are various obstacles that must be overcome. I am still going through my own struggles and, to be honest, still have a long way to go.

Despite this, there are two main themes that interest me greatly.

The first theme is the relationship between cities and formation of the nation of Switzerland. In the 13th century, a cooperative group of villages in the valleys of the Alps opposed the rule of the Habsburg monarchy in power at that time. Eventually, by forming alliances with influential cities nearby, they were able to erode the Habsburgs' control, and further expand the scale of their alliance until by the outset of the 16th century they had laid the foundations of the present day's Switzerland. What is of particular interest to me is why the various powerful cities responded to the valley communities' call for an alliance and eventually strengthened their sense of belonging as a part of Switzerland. Each city responded in a different manner. My goal is to investigate these things while also focusing on the interests and power structures of each region.

The second theme that interests me is the travelers during the Middle Ages. It is said that after the latter half of the 14th century, people began to travel much more actively across a broader range of territory. Perhaps the most well-known instances of this are the itinerant craftsmen and students; however, the truth is that people from all types of professions and backgrounds also traveled extensively throughout Europe. We tend to think mostly of things as a preamble for sedentary society, but when looking at medieval society, it is possible that this may not have been done by. There seems to be merit investing each of the regions and cities, as well as what the nature of a medieval society that did not presuppose settlement would be with regard to the reasons, influence, and significance of the people's travels.

As we turn our eyes to each history, we see that there is still much left for us to learn. Although it is essential to learn the language of each nation when studying Western history, I hope that some of you are willing to overcome this little difficulty and join me in my explorations of this world of boundless vision.

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