• Paper

    Naosuke Mukoyama, Associate Professor

A research paper from Assoc. Prof. Naosuke Mukoyama published at “European Journal of International Relations”

The conventional accounts of the history of the sovereign state system assume that territorial sovereignty originated in Europe and spread to the rest of the world through colonial expansion. This implies that territory, which is a core feature of the modern state, and more specifically, linear borders, had not existed outside Europe before other societies encountered the West. Focusing on early modern Japan, this article challenges that assumption by showing that there was a similar territorial order outside Europe that developed in parallel with its European counterpart.

Through an investigation of boundary disputes, boundary markers, and map-making during the Edo period (1603–1868), it demonstrates that linear borders were not foreign to early modern Japan. Domains in Edo Japan were already well into the process of building a territorial order with demarcated borders and mutual exclusion.

This article contributes to International Relations scholarship by addressing the “Westphalian myth” from a geographical rather than temporal perspective and shifting the focus of the study of non-Western international systems from differences to similarities. It also suggests a potential revision of scholarly understandings of discontinuity before and after the Meiji Restoration in Japan.

Research title:

The Eastern cousins of European sovereign states? The development of linear borders in early modern Japan




European Journal of International Relations
First published online November 1, 2022


Naosuke Mukoyama
Associate Professor, Institute for Future Initiatives