"Those People Far Surpass us": Gulliver, the Japanese, and the Dutch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Books Two and Four of Gulliver’s Travels have become key texts for postcolonial critics concerned with Swift’s complicated attitudes toward European exploration, and exploitation, in the South Seas. Book Three, in contrast, has received little attention—both because the hero’s episodic adventures do not fit the pattern of European encounters with “barbaric” peoples (the Irish, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders) and because Swift’s satire is directed exclusively at European institutions (the Royal Society) and vices (luxury, political corruption, and absurd philosophies). Gulliver’s wanderings among the imaginary islands of the western Pacific, however, are bracketed by his only two encounters with natives of “real” realms: a Japanese pirate captain and a Dutch pirate at the beginning of Book Three and the emperor of Japan and the crew of a Dutch vessel at its end. In 1722, after Swift had begun writing Gulliver’s Travels, he noted that he was reading “many diverting Books of History and Travels,” and while scholars have speculated about possible sources for his depiction of Japan, only Anne Barbeau Gardiner has noted the significance of these Japanese encounters in the context of Swift’s vitriolic attacks on the Dutch.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationImperialisms
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Literary Investigations, 1500-1900
EditorsBalachandra Rajan, Elizabeth Sauer
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781403980465
ISBN (Print)9781349528783
StatePublished - Oct 28 2004


  • intended primary
  • British East India Company
  • postcolonial critic
  • Japanese court
  • prose work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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