Prof. David Spafford

Prof. Spafford

Undergraduate ChairAssociate Professor, Pre-Modern Japanese History


855 Williams Hall

Office Hours
Fall 2017: Email for an appointment

PhD, History, University of California, Berkeley, 2006.

Courses Taught

EALC 002: Introduction to Japanese Civilization

EALC 073: Freshman Seminar: Culture and Conflict: Japan's Long Sixteenth Century

EALC 162: City and Citizenship: Warrior Politics and Commoner Culture in Early Modern Japan

EALC 176: The Age of the Samurai

EALC 251: Readings in Classical Japanese

EALC 264: Bandits, Pirates, and Peasants: Lawlessness and Violence in Premodern Japan          

EALC 270: From Shamans to Shoguns: A Textual History of Premodern Japan

EALC 276: Warriors, Peasants, and Monks in Medieval Japan

EALC 301: Major Seminar: Information and Nation in Japan

EALC 751: Early Modern Japanese History: Travel Print Nation

Selected Publications

“Warrior Regimes and the Regulation of Violence in Medieval Japan.” In The Cambridge World History of Violence, vol. 2, 500–1500 CE, ed. Matthew S. Gordon, Richard W. Kaeuper, and Harriet Zurndorfer, 143–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 

“The Language and Contours of Familial Obligation in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Japan.” In What is a Family? Answers from Early Modern Japan, ed. Mary Elizabeth Berry and Marcia Yonemoto, 2346. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019.

 “Handed Down in the Family: The Past and Its Uses in the Kan’ei Genealogies of 1643.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 42, no. 2 (Summer 2016), 279-314.  

“What’s in a Name? House Revival, Adoption, and the Bounds of Family in Late Medieval Japan.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74, no. 2 (December 2014): 283-331. 

“Emperor and Shogun, Pope and King: The Development of Japan’s Warrior Aristocracy.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 88, no. 1 (April 2014): 11-19. 

A Sense of Place: The Political Landscape in Late Medieval Japan. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2013.

“Warriors Are Tools: Commentary on ‘Epic Hero as Cyborg.’” Fragments: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Medieval and Ancient Pasts 2 (2012): 26-34. URL:

“Uesugi Kenshin.” Entry in The Encyclopedia of War, ed. Gordon Martel, vol. 5, 2263-64. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2012. (peer-reviewed.)

“Takeda Shingen.” Entry in The Encyclopedia of War, ed. Gordon Martel, vol. 4, 2128-30. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2012. (peer-reviewed.)

Review of The Culture of Disputes in Early Modern Japan, 1550-1700, by David Anthony Eason (PhD diss.). For Dissertation Reviews, October 4, 2011. URL:

“An Apology of Betrayal: Political and Narrative Strategies in a Late Medieval Memoir.” Journal of Japanese Studies 35, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 321-52.


In Preparation:

“Family Crests and Family Identity in Warrior Japan.” In The Hidden Language of Ancient Writing Systems, ed. Stephen Houston and John Bodel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020 (forthcoming).

“Warrior Law,” essay for vol. 1 of the new Cambridge History of Japan, ed. Laura Hines, David Howell, and Hitomi Tonomura. In progress.

The Corporate Warrior House in Japan, 1450-1650. Monograph in progress.