Writings: Expedition Accounts
The Americans who sailed with Matthew Perry were heroic explorers (to those they left behind in the U.S.) or potential conquerors (to those they encountered in Japan). In addition to facing the dangers of a long sea voyage, they knew little about Japanese culture and feared the Japanese might meet them with violence. The same can be said of the Japanese who both feared and were intensely curious about the Americans who arrived on "the black ships." Many of the nineteenth century observations made by both cultures strike us as ethnocentric and even laughable today because we can instantly communicate with each other. In preparing this website, we emailed daily with colleagues in Japan, for example. But the events, and miscommunications, of the first contact between the two countries had important consequences for our futures. These personal accounts show us the thoughts of the first American ambassadors to Japan.
Texts and images both serve as evidence of how the Japanese and Americans thought about the Perry visit. The texts listed below, and the biographies provided of the writers, add to our understanding of the visual record and help us explore the meaning of the Perry visit to both the Japanese and Americans of the nineteenth century, and of the present.
- Matthew Calbraith Perry, Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China Seas and Japan performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, 1856. | See also: Google Books edition
- Matthew Calbraith Perry, The Japan Expedition, 1852–1854; the personal journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry; first published in 1968, probably last reviewed by Perry in 1855.
- Wilhelm Heine, With Perry to Japan: A Memoir, 1856.
- John S. Sewall, "The Invincible Armada in Japan," New Englander and Yale Review, 1890.
- John S. Sewall, The Logbook of the Captain's Clerk: Adventures in the China Seas, 1905. | See also: Google Books edition
- S. Wells Williams, A Journal of the Perry Expedition to Japan (1853-1854) (Yokohama, Japan: Kelley & Walsh, Ltd, 1910)