Michael Laver Headshot

Michael Laver


Department of History
College of Liberal Arts

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Michael Laver


Department of History
College of Liberal Arts


BA, Purdue University; MA, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania


Research Interests: History of East Asia; Early Modern History; History of Japan; History of Christianity; History of Baseball 

Michael Laver’s research interests are diverse and wide-ranging, although to date he has published mainly in the field of early modern Japan. His first book, Japan’s Economy by Proxy, details Japanese trade with the wider early modern world as facilitated mainly by Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese merchants. His second book, The Sakoku Edicts and the Politics of Tokugawa Hegemony, argues that the several strictures the Tokugawa shogun put on trade with Japan, as well as on foreign influences in Japan, was primarily an attempt to bolster domestic power within the Japanese islands. His most recent book, The Dutch East India Company and Japan will be published by Bloomsbury Press in the autumn of 2019 and deals with the exotic gifts given to Japanese officials by the Dutch India Company and how those gifts were used by both the Japanese and the Dutch.  Professor Laver has taught courses on modern and premodern Japan and China, modern East Asia, global Christianity, and baseball.

Professor Laver serves as the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and is responsible for the curriculum, strategic planning, international education, and interdisciplinary programming.  He has previously served as the chair of the Department of History as well as the program director of the International and Global Studies Program. He has also served in a number of other capacities at RIT, including as Chair of Academic Senate and as co-chair of the Middle States Re-accreditation Process.

Professor Laver earned his B.A. in History and Psychology at Purdue University and Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds a Masters of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and serves as rector of Saint John's Episcopal Church in Sodus, New York in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester.  


Personal Links
Areas of Expertise

Select Scholarship

Full Length Book
Laver, Michael. The Dutch East India Company in Early Modern Japan: Gift Giving and Diplomacy. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Press, 2020. Print.
Laver, Michael. The Sakoku Edicts and the Politics of Tokugawa Hegemony. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. Print.
Laver, Michael. Japan’s Economy by Proxy in the Seventeenth Century: China, The Netherlands, and the Bakufu. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2008. Print.
Journal Paper
Laver, Michael. "Seeing History in New Ways: Woodblock Prints and the Historical Imagination." World History Connected. October (2018): N/A. Web.
Laver, Michael. "Most Exquisite Curiosities of Nature and Art: The Dutch East India Company, Objets d’Art and Gift Giving in Early Modern Japan." World History Connected 10:2. June, 2013 (2013): N/A. Web.
Laver, Michael. "Butter Diplomacy: Food and Drink as a Social Lubricant in Dutch East India Company Trade with Japan." Education About Asia. Spring (2012): 5-8. Print.
Laver, Michael. "Skins in the Game: The Dutch East India Company, Deerskins, and the Japan Trade." World History Bulletin 28:2. Fall (2012): 13-16. Print.
Published Review
Laver, Michael. Rev. of Government by Mourning: Death and Political Integration in Japan, 1603-1912, by Atsuko Hirai. The Journal of Japanese Studies Dec. 2018: 195-199. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of Matteo Ricci and the Catholic Mission to China: A Short History with Documents, by R. Po-chia Hsia. Education About Asia Sep. 2017: N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of Pioneers to Partners: The Reformed Church in America and Christian Mission with the Japanese, by Gordon Laman. Itinerario 2013: N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of Books and boats: Sino-Japanese Relations in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, by Osama Oba (translated by Joshua Fogel). The Journal of Asian Studies 2013: N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity, by Robert Wilkin. Canadian Journal of History 2013: N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of Coins, Trade, and the State: Economic Growth in Early Medieval Japan, by Ethan Segal. Journal of World History Dec. 2012: N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of The Limits of Empire: European Imperial Formations in Early Modern World History. Essays in Honor of Geoffrey Parker, ed. Tonio Andrade and William Reger. World History Connected 2012: N/A. Web.
Laver, Michael. Rev. of The Traveler’s World: Europe to the Pacific, by Harry Liebersohn. Canadian Journal of History 2011: N/A. Print.
Invited Article/Publication
Laver, Michael. "Introduction: The Sea in World History." World History Bulletin. (2016). Web.
Book Chapter
Laver, Michael. "Neither Here nor There: Trade, Piracy, and the ‘Space Between’ in Early Modern East Asia”." Sea Rovers, Silk, and Samurai: Maritime East Asia in World History 1500-1750. Ed. Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai\'i PRess, 2016. N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. "A Whole New World Order." Japan Emerges: Introductory Essays on Premodern History. Ed. Karl Friday. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012. N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. "Diplomacy, Piracy, and the Space Between." Japan Emerges: Introductory Essays on Premodern History. Ed. Karl Friday. Boulder, C: Westview Press, 2012. N/A. Print.
Laver, Michael. "VThe Trade Federation, the East India Companies, and Chaotic Worlds of Trade." Star Wars and History. Ed. Nancy Reagin and Janice Liedl. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2012. N/A. Print.
Formal Presentation
Laver, Michael. “Through a Glass Darkly: Christianity and the Politics of Control in Tokugawa Japan.” Sustainable Asia: Challenges and Opportunities. 38th Annual Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference. State College, PA. 23 Oct. 2010. Presentation.
Laver, Michael. “Gift-giving and the Politics of Legitimacy in Tokugawa Japan.” 59th Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs. Columbus, OH. 30 Oct. 2010. Presentation.

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
Understanding the history of East Asia is integral to understanding the complex world that we live in, and will help us to understand that no single nation can live in isolation. One cannot endeavor to understand limited national entities alone; rather one must understand the interactions between cultures and across borders that help to define the world. Japan, for example, cannot be adequately understood without reference to China, Korea, and one might argue, the wider world. Therefore, we will undertake in this course to examine the region of East Asia historically from about 1600 to the present, paying special attention to interactions between the cultures and people of the region.
3 Credits
This course will cover the military, diplomatic, political, social, and cultural history of World War II. It will focus on the causes of the war, the battles that decided the war, the leaders (civilian and military) who made the key decisions, and how the war changed society. The purpose of the course is to acquaint students with the political, social, economic, military, and cultural history of WWII and that conflict's impact upon our own era.
3 Credits
China occupies a rather large place in the consciousness of most Americas. It is the most populous country in the world, it has one of the biggest economies in the world and, in many ways, China has been seen to be in direct competition with America. Whatever the truth of these ideas, it is clear that China will play a major role on the world stage for the foreseeable future. This class will seek to analyze the historical circumstances surrounding the rise of modern China. What were the conditions that led to the establishment of, first, Nationalist China, followed by the People's Republic; why did the communist government enjoy such popular support; what were China's relations with the outside world; and finally, what is the state of China today? These are all questions that we will seek to answer in this course.
3 Credits
This course will seek to examine critically the history and culture of Japan and will address many of the stereotypes and misunderstandings that are an inevitable part of Japanese studies. We will do this by examining a number of materials such as primary documents in translation, Japanese films, and art such as woodblock prints. In doing so, I will try to present as complete and balanced a picture of Japan's history and culture as possible. This will not only be useful in understanding Japan and its past, but will also help in understanding many of the important regional issues that are confronting us here in the modern world.
3 Credits
The history of Christianity is not simply the history of the religion of the west. Rather, Christian history is a long and complex movement that has profoundly affected Asia, Africa, Europe, and the New World. At various times there were several competing ideologies of Christianity, of which the west's was only a single example. Christianity also has a long history of interacting with other religions, from Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism to Judaism and Islam. This course will trace the development of Christianity paying special attention to how the Christian tradition developed in places such as Africa and Asia. We will, of course, also study Christianity in its western forms, but we will make an effort to dive into the rich tradition of this religion in all its many forms.
3 Credits
One of the most enduring images of premodern Japan in the samurai, replete with sword and armor. This course will seek to examine the role of the samurai in Japanese history, examining popular perceptions in Japanese film, woodblock prints, and texts. We will also use a variety of secondary sources to critically examine some of the portrayals of the samurai and how they stand up to historical reality. Students will be encouraged to participate in extensive discussions as we deal with a great variety of media and try to arrive at an image of the samurai that is historically accurate. And finally, we will examine issues such as feudalism and the warrior code and how those historical concepts relate to the west at about the same time period.
1 Credits
From artificial intelligence to gender and racial equity to international sanctions, the decisions we make and the actions we take are suffused with ethical dimensions. This seminar involves lively discussion and careful analysis of contemporary issues. Particular topics will change from one semester to the next, but each version of this course will apply ethical frameworks to conceiving, discussing, and striving toward the resolution of nuanced problems.

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